Old World Traditions in Raw Milk Cheese

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Puesto de Quesos en el Mercado de Saint Jean de Luz
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlastras

While in Wisconsin for the raw milk symposium, I met an exciting young man who is a cheese aficionado. He is so passionate about cheesemaking that I want to introduce him to you. He has kindly agreed to guest blog for us. Today begins a series he penned on European cheese traditions…

By Guest Blogger, Bill Anderson, Apprentice Wisconsin Cheesemaker

With all of our discussion about the wonders of fresh raw milk, we often overlook the beauty of hand-crafted artisanal raw milk cheeses.  Throughout Europe, there are many distinct, unique, and localized cheeses, each of which express a particular region, geography, soil type, animal breed, and cultural traditions.  The French notion of “terrior” (pronounced ter-wha) or the “taste of place” is best known amongst wine connoisseurs, but is perhaps even more applicable to cheese.

In many European countries these traditions are protected by law under various designations (Protected Designations of Origin) known as AOC in France and Switzerland, DOP in Italy and Spain, and PDO in England.  For example, any cheese which carries the name “Camembert de Normandie” must be made exclusively from raw milk, and produced and aged in Normandy.  Strict rules protect the artisanal scale of the cheese production, to prevent industrialized cheese manufacturers from co-opting the term.  Though most generic Camembert made in France is pasteurized and mass produced, the term “Camembert de Normandie” is reserved exclusively for the artisanally produced raw milk cheese.

There are countless examples of such protected cheeses, as well as other artisanal raw milk cheese from both America and Europe, that you’ll get to read about.  This first series will focus on European cheeses, with American artisanal cheese reserved for a future series.

The cheeses we will explore are:

Switzerland: Gruyere and other Alpine Cheeses

French Soft-ripened cheese

English Territorial cheeses

Other Traditions

This is only the tip of the iceberg in old-world cheese traditions.  From the sheep’s milk cheeses of Italy, Greece, Spain, and the Pyrenees mountains of France, to the traditional water buffalo mozzarella of Southern Italy, there is much that has been left out.  But it helps us understand how the uniqueness of each region shapes the type of cheese, and how those cheese traditions are rooted in the culture and culinary traditions of the region.

Visit Hartke is Online! blog tomorrow as we explore, Switzerland: Gruyere and other Alpine Cheeses.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the next series, on American artisan raw milk cheeses.

Bill Anderson is 25 year old apprentice cheese maker living in Madison, WI.  Born in Wisconsin, and raised on lots of Wisconsin cheese, he became interested in raw milk and artisan dairy in his early 20′s, at local farmer’s markets and local food functions.  Bill worked for a number of years as a cheese monger, and is now poised to begin producing his own brand of artisan raw milk cheese with milk from some of the best organic and sustainable Wisconsin dairy farms.

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Comments

  1. Wonderful subject. The traditional European cheeses I have been fortunate enough to eat were made from real, uncooked full fat milk (aka raw) they were so much better than factory cheese, they were a totally different food. I actually craved Comte for a while,Iit must have had some nutrient I needed. The problem is that they were expensive, and kept getting more expensive as the dollar fell.

    I would love for someone to produce cheese of that quality here that was easier to afford.
    .-= Stanley Fishman´s last blog ..Grassfed Farmer Renews the Land =-.

  2. Sylvia Onusic says:

    Thank you Bill and Kim for this most interesting series on European raw milk cheeses. I am really looking forward to your future blogs!

  3. heidi allen says:

    Yummy! I was wondering where to find the best information or cookbook or even class (in the US) on how to make old world, truly raw, cheese like this? Or does Bill Anderson offer classes?

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