Current Obsession: Raw Cheese

raw cheese
What is “raw” cheese? It’s mysterious! Delicious! *Slightly* illegal! You’d better sit down, cause you’re about to get some dairy knowledge.

Cheese is great, cheese is good, but there is a way it can get even better: when it’s made with raw milk. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteaurized, a.k.a. heated to a specific temperature for a specific duration of time to kill bacteria. By nature, pasteurization alters both the texture and flavor of milk, cheese, or any other dairy product.

Pasteurization is the law, with few exceptions, in the U.S. Thus, unless you’ve eaten cheese abroad, you may have never had raw dairy before. Traditionally, camembert is an unpasteurized cheese but it cannot be imported raw. What we have in the United States is a bastar… I mean, pasteurized camembert-style soft cheese. Raw cheese tends to have a slightly tangy, earthy note underneath the richer flavors, which is so unique that it cannot be replicated artificially. I can say with certainty: camembert tastes different stateside, and that makes me sad. It’s part of the reason I believe we should have at least some access to unpasteurized milk and cheese.

Before you clutch those pearls, raw milk producers ensure the safety of their supply in alternative fashions, such as keeping cows in highly supervised and sanitary conditions, and aging their milk or dairy products for at least 60 days, during which the acids kill harmful bacteria. Still, some people are wary of cheese made with raw milk. You’re welcome to your opinions, but just be aware that contamination and bad bacteria do occur in pasteurized cheeses as well. Some raw milk and cheese enthusiasts have touted the nutritional benefits of unpasteurized dairy, because some bacteria killed during pasteurization is actually good for your gut! There is also some evidence that raw milk can help treat allergies and recurring bouts of “sour stomach”.

You can find raw cheeses in most specialty cheese shops, especially ones that focus on organic varieties. Whole Foods or similar markets will carry at least one variety; recently, a major brand went into the “raw” cheese business: Organic Valley. Though they do briefly heat their raw cheeses as a food safety precaution, the product is not fully pasteurized. Organic Valley offers a raw mild cheddar, a raw sharp cheddar, as well as a raw Jack-style cheese, which I heartily recommend (especially as a topping for chili).

And now, without further ado, let’s get to those links!

Serious Eats Talks Raw Cheese

Whole Foods Talks Raw Cheese

FDA Warnings About Raw Milk Cheese

Organic Valley Cheese Styles

In Current Obession, I get to plug something (for zero recognition, or monies) that I have been entirely obsessed with of late. It will be food related, or at least food-adjacent, and I’ll include many links to where you can fuel your burgeoning obsessions, too!

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