12 days of cheesemas, aged cheeses, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, italian cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, raw milk

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 12

(photo from Culture Magazine)

Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We’re talking about the “King of Cheeses” for God’s sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission–actually, my encouragement–to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you ‘Parmesan’ at the farmer’s market. It’s not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it’s absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow’s eat, how the milk is heated, where it’s aged–all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.

cheese makers, FDA, raw milk, raw milk cheese aging rule, saving raw milk cheeses

Quieting the Curd

A promising update on the worrisome murmur that the FDA may change, or extend, the current 60-day aging rule for raw milk cheeses.

From The Atlantic:

Now it appears that the fears were exaggerated. Earlier this month a delegation from the Cheese Society met in Washington, D.C., to discuss possible changes. According Nora Weiser, the society’s executive director, her group was assured that “the FDA is not currently considering any rules that would change aging requirements.” Rather, the agency is trying to develop a science-based risk approach to cheese making. The results of their inquiries will be published and opened to public comment later this year.

I know this was a concern to many turophiles and cheese makers and all I have to say is thank fucking God.

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Consider the Cheese

Angela Miller, from Consider Bardwell Farm, touches a bit on the topic of the FDA restricting raw milk cheeses further in the US.

At least 75% of our cheese-makers’ day is spent cleaning, washing with water above 120 degrees, scouring, rinsing with an acid, and sanitizing all floors and surfaces, all cheese making equipment, as well as door handles and anything else that normally comes in contact with people, milk, and ultimately cheese…

…Food-safety practices to protect the public health are the necessary goal of every cheese creamery in order to ensure the continued production of raw-milk cheeses.

fighting the FDA, raw milk, saving raw milk, saving raw milk cheeses

Blessed Are the Cheese Makers

According to a recent New York Times article, the FDA will be proposing a review of the 60-day aging for raw milk cheeses made in, and imported to, the US. In 2010 there were 15 recalls linked to raw milk cheeses, sickening around 54 people–with several of the recalls not sickening any individuals. Raw milk, itself, was the subject of 12 recalls, sickening 146 people. Everyone in the raw milk cheese industry, including those that work with the medium here in Maine, would agree that it is 54 people too many. However, they would also be quick to tell you that these outbreaks are few and far between and they would be right.

In the past 13 years, 800 people have been sickened due to raw milk contamination. On average, that’s 61.5 people a year. Putting this year well above average and, with a high profile recall linked to west coast artisan cheese maker, Sally Jackson, raw milk and raw milk cheeses find themselves under questionable FDA scrutiny. I call it questionable because one glance at the FDA website and you know where they stand.

But, where does that put us and, more importantly, where does that put our cheese makers? We are extremely lucky to be living in a state, one of only a handful, that allows the sale of raw milk. In many you have to buy raw milk labeled ‘for pet consumption,’ buy part of the cow–called a herd share–or get it on the black, or in this case green, market.

Before moving here, from New York, I had never known raw milk nor would I have ever considered it an option. Now, because of living here and having had it from places like Caldwell Farms, Straws Farm, Winter Hill, Bisson and Tourmaline Hill Farms, I drink milk. That’s something I hadn’t done since my early teens. Being able to actually taste the milk, all of it’s richness in it’s purest state, brought me back.

And raw milk cheeses? Please don’t even consider putting up an aged cheddar that’s made with pasteurized milk next to one that had raw beginnings because it’s just embarrassing. There IS no comparison between the two. Ask anyone that has spent time over in Europe, that has had fresh raw milk cheeses, like Camembert, and they will tell you what a let down it is to come back home and to be unable to find anything like it state side. But, even those traditions and cheeses are disappearing as we become one big global food family. Homogenization, both culturally and agriculturally, is destroying traditions that have existed for hundreds of years and it seems that hardly anyone in the states, outside of the cheese makers and dairy farmers, is noticing.

Again, I have to ask, “Why?” Because, compared to pasteurized milk, raw milk drinkers make only a fraction of the market. Though, I’m sure if it were legal in more states it would be a different story. Also, it’s easier to go after a niche market than a larger one. In fact, as Iwrite this there is currently a beef recall for Southern California, totally 3,000lbs of possibly contaminated beef. But, think we’ll go after the beef industry and force them to irradiate it all? Never.
Green Onions?
All of these have been the cause of massive food safety recalls in the past 20 years and who does the FDA go after? Those affected thousands of people and those industries, for the most part, remain unchanged. So, why look at raw milk cheese now? Because it’s an easy target and the FDA is a fucking bully.

So, this weekend when you’re at K. Hortons, The Cheese Iron, Rosemont Market, Whole Foods, Royal River and the like, seek out US made raw milk cheeses. Celebrate their uniqueness because, sad to say, we don’t know how much longer they’ll be around.