Swiss Scientists Solve Mystery Behind Swiss-Cheese Eye Formation

Article by Peter Jenkelunas, Murray’s Cavemaster & Food Safety Expert

Earlier this week, an article in The Guardian was released that after about a century of research, science had finally figured out why Swiss cheese is full of holes… and why those holes are disappearing.  Our very own Peter Jenkelunas, Murray’s Cavemaster & Food Safety Expert, responds with his thoughts on the topic:

 

Cheese making and milk collection practices have changed drastically over the years.  Efforts have been made to improve sanitation and cleanliness in hopes of reducing foodborne disease and product spoilage.  Milk buckets and farm hands have been replaced by closed and automated milking systems, filtration systems are common place, and sanitation standards have been elevated to all-time highs.  It would seem that our understanding of processing safe, consistent, and wholesome cheese is moving in the right direction.  Is it possible that something has been lost in the midst of progress?   

A recent study by a group of Swiss scientists (Guggisberg et al., 2015) set out to tackle the increasing problem of blind cheese (Swiss-type cheese that failed to form holes).  To solve this problem they needed the answers to two questions; first, what produces the gas in Swiss-type cheese; and second, what is causing the gas to build up at certain points throughout the cheese.  The answer to the first question is well known.  The main source of gas in Swiss-type cheeses is propionic acid bacteria (PAB).  PAB converts lactate into propionate, acetate, and CO2.  As the pressure of CO2 builds up, eyes will form (Flückiger, 1980). 

The answer to the second question hasn’t been fully elucidated.  In 1917, W.M Clark postulated that in the early stages of cheese making eyes are “seeded” at “favorable” points.  Since then, seeding has been attributed to CO2 from starter cultures, small mechanical openings, micro particles, and nitrogen in milk (Polychroniadou, 2001).  None of these possibilities fully explains the increasing problem of blind cheese.   

The study by Guggisberg et al. (2015) evaluated potential cheese eye seeds from various sources.  They found a linear relationship between amounts of hay powder and the number of eyes in Emmental cheese.  It was hypothesized that CO2 diffuses into the capillaries of botanical materials (such as hay) to initiate eye formation.  In the absence of hay particles, they found that CO2 freely diffused out of the cheese.   Based on this new information, it is easy to understand how milk collection by crude, old fashioned methods will yield milk with more hay particles and subsequently more holes. 

Which raises the question, how clean do you want your cheese making milk to be?

 

Clark, W.M. (1917). On the formation of “eyes” in Emmental cheese.  Journal of Dairy Science, 1, 91-113.

Flückiger, E. (1980). CO2- und Lochbildung im Emmentalerkase.  Schweizerische Milchzeitung, 106, 473-474, 479-480.

Guggisberg, D., Schuetz, P., Winkler, H., Amrein, R., Jakob, E., Fröhlich-Wyder, M.T., Irmler, S., Bisig, W., Jerjen, I., Plamondon, M., Hofmann, J., Flisch, A., Wechsler, D. (2015).  Mechanism and control of the eye formation in cheese.  International Dairy Journal.  47, 118-127.

Polychroniadou, A. (2001). Eyes in cheese: a concise review.  Milchwissenschaft, 56, 74-77.

Ballymaloe Food & Wine Lit Fest 2015

by Dan Belmont, Murray’s Cheese Education & Events Manager

Irish cuisine – what comes to mind? Pub food, Irish Breakfast (see: MEAT), shepherds pie, Guinness, heavy, rich foods, right? As I ate my way around County Cork, Ireland my preconceived notions were shattered in just three short days. Now – don’t get me wrong, the Irish Breakfast served at the Ballyvalone House was the perfect way to start the day (especially after a night of local gin cocktails) – four kinds of meat on one plate? YES PLEASE. However…

The “Emerald Isle” is a wildly appropriate moniker. Despite mainly overcast days, I still utilized sunglasses to shield my eyes from blinding bright green foliage and rolling pastures almost everywhere you looked. Its comes as no surprise that the Irish Government and OHRUA (formerly the Irish Dairy Board) is on a mission to grow the country’s agricultural sector significantly over the next decade. What they lack in natural gas or coal, they make up for ten-fold in beautiful lush grasses. And what do we know about amazing grass? Makes for very happy cows. Happy cows = delicious milk. Delicious milk yields incredible butter and cheeses and yogurt, etc., etc.. Ireland is poised (and very excited) to share this bounty with the world.

The unofficial theme for the weekend was LOCAL. We heard from Alice Waters (Ballymaloe LitFest Keynote Speaker) and her adventures opening Chez Panisse in Berkeley CA. in the late sixties. Tales of local growers trading fingerling potatoes for meals – long before anyone had heard of fingerling potatoes and now they’re a familiar staple on many a restaurant menu. The simple of idea of sourcing ONLY local ingredients started the farm to table revolution. Ms. Waters introduced gardening and cooking education to elementary schools that was based off a pilot program hosted at a penitentiary! The restaurant (still open today) was built on idyllic pure concepts, and a “This may not work, but let’s try it anyway.” attitude. Her spirit and accomplishments are admirable to say the least.

I did my part to embrace the local theme. Rather than Guinness, I opted for local Cork County Stout and drank Green Spot Pot Still as my whiskey of choice. (More on Whiskey later.) After a tour and butter making demonstration at the Cork Butter Museum (yes, that’s a thing)

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we ventured out to West Cork where we met Clodagh McKenna – chef, cookbook author and TV personality – for a private garden party, complete with cooking demonstrations all using locally sourced ingredients from the nearby village. She’s essentially the Martha Stewart of Ireland (sans incarceration).

Take a look at this (HANDWRITTEN!) menu:

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 When you think of Irish Cuisine, do you picture this plate? Flower arrangement by yours truly!

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 At the end of our first day, I was convinced that the Irish are the just the nicest damn people in the world. The Green family welcomed us into their home at Ballyvalone and Clodagh was convivial hospitality incarnate. Gracious doesn’t begin to describe it. It all became a very personal experience, I felt like family meeting long lost relatives. And dinner was divine.

We spent the next day visiting with the Grubb family at Cashel Blue Farm. The operation there was nothing short of impressive, with innovations at every turn. The warm curd, newly formed was light, fluffy and sweet on the palate – like the most delicate panna cotta you could ever imagine. The curd is then packed into moulds but not pressed to maintain a high moisture level, and ultimately less dense paste. The process is a mix of hands on labour and high-tech computerization. For all my cave apprentice alumni, check this out: With this simple “turn-key” design, you can rotate a dozen wheels at a time!

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Flipping of the wheels was also automated, encouraging uniform density. The curd is not salted directly; rather the newly formed wheels are only brined encouraging that sweet creamy paste. After piercing, in just two short weeks the blue mold is activated and begins to work its magic from the center of the wheel. 

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The Grubb family only pressed upon me further the through-line of family and superb Irish hospitality. We were invited into their farmhouse for lunch. One of the family’s favorite recipes is a simple pizza of caramelized onions, rosemary and Cashel Blue. We were even shown the original copper kettle where Mrs. Grubb made the first batch of Cashel Blue!

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The community assembled at the Ballymaloe House and Cookery School for the third annual Kerrygold Ballymaloe Food & Wine Lit Fest is nothing short of impressive. 10,000 guests descended upon the farm for a myriad of tastings, seminars, lectures, demonstrations, garden tours, and sheer indulgence on a smorgasbord of specialty food and drink offerings. The opening night festivities were ripe with merriment and revelry, bolstered by a sense of like-minded community. We were joined by fellow New Yorkers Garrett Oliver Brewer at Brooklyn Brewery, April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig fame, and a long list of internationally celebrated chefs, authors and wine and spirits experts. The festival host, Darina Allen buzzed around with youthful energy like a proud mother, facilitating introductions and bridging connections between attendees. Again, it just felt like a big family reunion.

What can I say? I like my whiskey. But as I have never been a big fan of Jameson, I was curious to see what the panel and tasting titled “Irish Whiskey Renaissance” had in store for me. Here’s the flight:

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 Color me impressed. The whiskeys were delicious, and unique, quaffs worthy of contemplation. The panel, comprised of two Irish distillers and a Scottish whiskey writer/expert was thoughtful and enthusiastic. Outlining the history of Irish distilling (thank you English taxation), differentiating between the pot and column still production methods, and looking ahead to what can only be described as, well, a renaissance, — but the number of new distilleries that will open their doors and their barrels over the next 5 years is incredible, the industry is exploding. Few had anticipated such a growth in global whiskey consumption, and the Irish are vying for their share of the market. If the five bottles we tasted are any indication of quality, I welcome increased availability in the states wholeheartedly.

The “Emerging Wine Regions” panel included popular wine writer Alice Feiring – known for her crusade against Robert Parker and the 100-point sale, among other passionate wine professionals showcased bottles from the Ukraine, (The Best Damn Wine Label I’ve Ever Seen), Greece and unheard of regions of Spain. I found it humorous that these ‘emerging’ regions all have rich wine making histories – some thousands of years old. They may be just emerging on the international wine market radar, but they’re established in their history and wine making traditions. Enter a region like New York’s Finger Lakes region, which has only been producing vitis vinefera for 50 years!

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Wine from the Ukraine

Our visit to the festival culminated with the Kerrygold Gala Dinner at the Ballymaloe house. A lovely meal featuring potted lobster, roast lamb, the famed Ballymaloe dessert cart, and of course CHEESE. Speeches by Kevin Lane, OHRUA President and Simon Coveney, Irelands Minister of Agriculture set the tone for celebration by outlining recent successes (removing limitations on milk production, championing Ireland’s agricultural products abroad) and what lies ahead – increasing availability of food and agricultural education, sustainability, and growth of both production and economy.

Ireland is on the verge of a food renaissance, and I couldn’t be more excited to see it happen. While I did not spend any time in Dublin, and never stepped foot in a pub, it was an unforgettable visit. County Cork is a DO NOT MISS part of the country, and I hope to return again soon.

Oh… and we were told maybe 200 times over the course of the weekend – BUTTER IS GOOD FOR YOU. Spread it on!

Dan Belmont, Simon Coveney, Darina Allen, Amy Stonionis

Dan Belmont, Simon Coveney, Darina Allen, Amy Stonionis

Celebrate Raw Milk Cheese!

rawWhile we appreciate all cheese, those made from raw milk hold a very special place in our heart. While we won’t make the argument that one is better than the other, we will say that the tradition and heritage of unpasteurized cheese is near and dear to our hearts. Having a whole day devoted to celebrating these traditions is important, not just because it helps expose the public to raw cheeses, it also helps to preserve and elevate the presence of cheese made from unpasteurized milk.

So, what is the deal with raw milk cheese? Let’s start with a brief history of cheese itself. Long before refrigeration, the need to preserve liquid dairy was a necessity. It ensured that nothing went to waste, and there would be food available during the times of year (winter) when it was not possible to yield crops. Cheese making is essentially caloric preservation. By removing some of the liquid from milk, condensing it, and through various aging techniques, we were essentially able to control the spoilage of liquid dairy, allowing the final product (cheese) to be consumed with little fear to human health.

What’s the deal with pasteurization?

As agriculture became increasingly more industrialized and centralized, there was an increase in foodborne pathogens. This created a huge risk top human health, and because products like cheese were shifting from farm production to factory production, there was a need to ensure that the final product was homogeneous and fit for human health. Essentially, when we pool liquid dairy from a bunch of different farms into a central processing facility, there is a much greater risk for contamination than just processing the milk on farm. Pasteurization was applied to cheese and liquid dairy (named after the French scientist Louis Pasteur.) This process essentially raises the temperature and keeps it there long enough to kill anything that might be harmful.

So, what’s wrong with pasteurization?

Well, this question is tricky. The short answer? Nothing! Pasteurization is good in the sense that it keeps the milk and cheese that we buy at the grocery store from getting us sick. However, when talking about small cheese makers, pasteurization can be quite harmful for a number of reasons. First, we have been making and consuming these cheeses for hundreds of years, with incredibly scant amounts of sickness. In many foreign countries, these traditions are protected, and certain cheeses MUST use raw milk. In the US, there is a move to increase the limitations and regulations on these cheeses, which would result in the loss of many of our favorite old world favorites from making it to the states. The second issue that many argue that raw milk is an expression of the farm. This milk contains a microbiological community that is unique to the farm on which it is made. By killing these microbes with pasteurization, we are essentially killing the elements that make these cheeses special.

So, now that you know a little more about raw milk, make sure to visit your local cheesemonger and celebrate Raw Milk Appreciation Day with us!

Nina Kaufelt talks Kraft Singles and Real Food

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By:Nina Planck Kaufelt

Nina Planck Kaufelt is the wife of Murray’s Big Cheese Rob Kaufelt. She is a writer, blogger and mother who has dedicated her work to helping to decode the jumbled world of nutritionism.  This is a post from her Facebook that was posted in response to the Kraft Singles labeling controversy. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has decided it doesn’t really want to tell parents that Kraft singles – a cheese-like product – are good for children. I WOULD say, “too little, too late,” which might be said about many professional dietician organization decisions on the relative merits of real and industrial food over the past half century – such as margarine, “heart-healthy” (sugary) breakfast cereals, the suggestion that children over two drink skim milk to prevent heart disease, a recommendation lacking any basis in science, or the advice that Greeks give up olive oil in favor of corn oil (they really did, according to a new book by Nina Teicholz) – but I have a forgiving nature.

Anytime a professional group stands up for its integrity, however mildly, against Industrial Food is cause for celebration. It IS good to see the Academy urge plenty of high-quality calcium for children, for these small persons must grow entire skeletons. Calcium is not readily found in kale, friends. Try chicken soup, wild salmon (with bones), and full-fat, cultured dairy, instead. Remember that calcium goes well with the fat-soluble vitamins A and D, which are found in their full form only in foods of animal origin. That’s not vitamin A in collards and carrots – it’s beta-carotene, which your body has to make into vitamin A.

As for the half-perfect advice from the dieticians – I can live with that, too. It gives me something to do. Real food saints are too busy fermenting, ranting about raw milk laws, and talking about the perfect number of food miles per serving. I’d rather buy my lacto-fermented vegetables in a jar, drink raw milk when it’s convenient, and spend time with the sinners – the people for whom time and money matter. Hear ye, hear ye, sinners! Come home to real food. Start, sinners, by taking all phony and fractured foods (soy “cheese” and protein powder and liquid egg whites and non-fat yogurt) out of your pantry. Ruthlessly cut all corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil from the cupboard. It’s all rancid and oxidized and too rich in omega-6 fats. Make white sugar a tiny part of your pantry. See what’s left, eat that, and call me in the morning.

Celebrate Great Cheese! Murray’s Wins 2 Awards at the US Cheese Championship

award_winning_blogWe are so very honored to have just received two “Best in Class” awards for our Cavemaster Reserve cheeses  — Greensward and Hudson Flower — at the US Cheese Championships on March 19th in Wisconsin!

Greensward and Hudson Flower are two of eight Cavemaster Reserve cheeses, which are sourced from local cheesemakers and begin as young artisan cheeses before going through the affinage tradition.  Murray’s team tries various methods and special applications, determined by the cheese, including covering a cheese in herbs, or wrapping in brandy-soaked apple leaves, or washing in local beer, but most importantly, allowing time and attention to develop each cheese’s full flavor potential.

Greensward, bathed in cider and brine, is big and bacony, with a luscious, silky texture and notes of forest and resin from its tidy spruce jacket. Hudson Flower is more delicate with its coating of herbs like hops flower and thyme. Both are beautiful reflections of the flavors of New York state.

Stay tuned — we plan to introduce 3 new Cavemaster Reserve cheeses in the coming year!