Happy Raw Milk Appreciation Day! (#Oldways #CheeseofChoice)
While we love any and all well-made cheeses, there is a special place in our hearts for cheesemakers who opt to use raw milk in their production. It can be a challenge as there are many good reasons to choose pasteurization, but in our experience, it is the best raw milk cheeses that offer both a true taste of place offering a complexity of aroma, texture and flavor that is rarely found in their pasteurized brethren.
To celebrate this special day, I’ve asked our mongers for a few of their favorite cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Read through and we invite you in for a taste or to check the cheeses out on our website and learn why we are so in love with raw milk cheese!
Comté Grand Cru
Our first tastes of Comté in the humid, medieval, cavernous fort of Marcel Petite brought forth such refined, delicate, and long lasting flavors that we were instantly hooked. After much trust-building with Philippe and Claude, we’ve been allowed to bring in these limited Grand Cru wheels of Comté that are aged for 24 + months. We get these wheels twice a year and they always sell out very quickly. This cheese has an exceptionally dense flavor with notes of grilled fruit, nuts and caramel.
“It’s just stellar. If you think you know Comté and you taste this cheese, you’ll understand what you’ve been missing. I also like the fact that it has been made with raw milk for so many years in a cooperative manner – and even with many people involved, they they consistently do a fantastic job.” – Tim
Brebis du Haut-Bearn
Brebis means “sheep” in French, and this classic brebis comes from a cooperative of shepherds in the Haut-Bearn region of Southern France amidst the Pyrenees mountains. These shepherds practice transhumance, which is the movement of their flocks from one grazing ground to another, from lowlands to highlands, in the warmer weather and back down as the weather cools. During the warmer months, the sheep graze on the delicate grasses and wildflowers which contribute to the flavor profile of the resulting cheese. Much of this delicate depth of flavor would be lost if this cheese were made using pasteurized milk. This cheese is aged seven months and offers a firm texture with flavors of herbs and hay and a little zip on the finish.
“I love how herbaceous and rich this cheese is.” – Serdar
Ekiola Ardi Gasna
This Ardi Gasna, “sheep cheese” in Basque, is a true fermier (farmstead) cheese discovered on a trip to the Basque region of France in 2010. Since then, the toothsome texture and delicate flavors of sweet cream, nuts, and fresh grass have made it a consistent customer favorite.
“Ekiola Ardi Gasna is one of my absolute favorite cheeses. I love it when it’s young and fruity. It’s also delicious when it’s mature and shows flavors of grass and white wine. Throughout its life, it is a beautiful expression of the richness of the raw milk produced by Basque dairy sheep.” – Jesse
Twig Farm Square
Former Formaggio Kitchen South End Cheesemonger Michael Lee has a herd of 30 lovely milking goats on his modest farm in Cornwall, VT. His Square Cheese is formed in a tied cloth to produce its irregular square shape, and is aged about 80 days, generating a natural and rustic rind surrounding a semi-soft, complex tasting interior with notes of herbs, grass, and nuts.
“I love Twig Square with a bit Karpos Wild Thyme Honey, but have also paired it with fresh pieces of thyme for a more visually dramatic look that also compliments the natural herbaceous flavors of the cheese. It’s totally unexpected on a cheese plate, but works so well!” – Beth
Made by Jamie Montgomery and Steve Bridges at Manor Farm in Somerset, England, using raw cow’s milk and traditional animal rennet, this is one of our favorite traditionally made cloth-bound farmhouse cheddars. This cheese has rich, long-lasting flavors that can be sharp and fruity, but also deep and earthy, and when aged over 14 months, develops a flaky, slightly crystalline texture.
“I really like Monty’s with an English Ale.” – Tripp
This exceptional little stinker is made by Jos Vulto who runs his small creamery in Walton, New York. Unique, because in place of a basic brine wash, this cheese is treated with absinthe produced by Delaware Phoenix Distillery also in Walton. The absinthe doesn’t impart a strong flavor, nor does it turn the cheese green, but it is super intriguing and cool. The rind is pinkish-orange with a bit of grit, but the interior is silky and buttery – pungent but not overwhelming.
“I like that it’s pungent but sweet enough to counter the strength and make it approachable. The absinthe gives it almost a floral note and the texture is super smooth and rich, but surprisingly delicate.” – Leona
Some of the best known raw milk cheeses (we’re thinking of Brie de Meaux, true Camembert Fermier and Reblochon) can’t be brought into the US and can only be enjoyed in country. We’re happy to be able to offer so many wonderful raw milk cheeses in our shops, but we are big proponents of being able to enjoy a cheese in its home – supporting such a rich tradition and the people who make it possible.
Beth Wittenstein is a cheesemonger at Formaggio South End and Online Media Manager for Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge. When she isn’t taking photos of cheese, you can find her making intricate confections in her kitchen.