Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Cheese Quality

Orange, "cheese-flavored" foods are rampant in the markets today and have really warped our understanding of what cheese is or can be. Lets say, 'no', to the over-processed and rediscover the real (cheese).

There are three divisions of cheese: Artisanal, Farmhouse and Factory Cheese.

Artisanal cheeses are handcrafted, small-production and often traditionally made cheeses. Truly the pinnacle of cheese-making, they are generally produced on a small scale on a farm or a small factory. Some artisanal cheeses are strictly regulated and are specific to a region; others break tradition and aren't regulated at all.

Farmhouse cheese or Fermier (of the farm) is usually made by hand with raw milk from animals from that farm. They are often well crafted and interesting cheeses. While most follow traditional production methods others are made using more progressive processes, including biodynamic and organic set-ups which appeal to the health-more conscious consumers.

Factory cheeses came about during the industrial revolution, the first being Derby cheese which appeared around 1890. During the First World War truly large scale manufacturing began with the milk being long shipped distances in steel tanks where it is over-pasteurized to kill bacteria that could affect the shelf life of the product. Unfortunately, killing the bacteria that causes spoilage also kills the bacteria which gives flavor and texture to the cheese resulting bland cheeses.

These methods eventually led to processed cheeses, cheese food or imitation cheese products, or as I call them, dead cheese.

Cheese curator,

Henry T. Cram

***Also, a quick note about raw milk cheeses- Many people are asking about raw milk cheeses. Many great raw milk products are withheld from importation into the United States because of our strict regulations for the handling of raw milk and production of raw milk cheeses, despite findings that there is little health risk in the consumption of raw dairy products.

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