Friday, June 18, 2010

Attention Raw Foodies!

Raw Milk and Vegetable Rennet = Raw Cheese

Recently, in one of our small staff meetings, we began discussing the virtues of raw food.  For those of us who make cheese, it seemed obvious that most of our cheeses fit the criterion of "raw food."  Yet, there is very little mention of this in the raw food literature.

There are, of course, many recipes online for "cheeses" made with nuts and seeds.  While we recognize that these are good, healthy foods, we're not sure they satisfy the urge for a rich, complex aged cheese or a tangy, fresh goat's milk cheese.

Of course, the source for your own raw cheese is raw milk from grass-fed cows, goats or sheep.  Here in Massachusetts, we can buy raw milk from licensed farms.  However, we do realize that many of you cannot.  If you are wondering where you can buy it, has the most extensive listing.  (Our Good Milk List also includes places that sell both raw and low-temp pasteurized milk.)

Vegetable rennet (microbial) is also a raw food.  Many folks who are trying to eat raw food become frustrated because they can find raw milk cheese, but the label states only the word "rennet" so they have no idea whether it is vegetable or veal rennet.  They also have no way of knowing how high the temperature of the milk has been.  (Just because the source was raw milk, doesn't mean the process of making the cheese didn't involve heating the milk above 115F.) 
Making the freshest cheeses, like Mascarpone, Creme Fraiche and Fromage Blanc (with our cultures) requires heating the milk to a relatively low 86F.  (If you buy these cheeses in the US, you can assume the milk has been pasteurized, because it is illegal to sell a raw milk cheese unless it has been aged for at least 60 days.)  Of course, these are the very easiest cheeses to make yourself.

Surprisingly, however, many of the hard cheeses also require heating the milk to similarly low temperatures.  For example, we currently have 23 recipes online in our RECIPES section.  Out of those recipes, only 9 involve heating the milk above 115F:

Brie- 86F
Cheddar - 102F
Gruyere - 114F
Reblochon - 96F
Stilton - 86F
Tomme au Marc - 98F
Parmesan - 125F
Jack - 100F
Pepato Toscano - 118F
Gorgonzola - 87F
Queso Fresco - 185F
Havarti - 100F
Munster - 97F
Ricotta (from whey) - 190F
Cantal - 90F
Cheese Curds - 116F
Beaufort Cheese - 130F
Yogurt - 185F
Asiago - 118F
Feta - 93F
Gouda - 102F
Kefir - 86F
Mozzarella -at least 135F to stretch

One of the easiest and healthiest cheeses to make is kefir cheese (in our recipe section).  Not only is it a very low temp cheese, but it is also loaded with probiotics.  It can be made with live kefir grains or with our direct set kefir cultures.  

The world's authority on kefir cheese is Dom Anfiteatro.  On his fabulous website, he gives detailed instructions on how to make cheese and just about anything else with kefir.  (We'll be doing an interview with him soon, so you'll be hearing more about Dom.)
If you aren't sure you want to make kefir cheese because you don't know what it tastes like, you can order it from Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery (above) at  We just discovered this creamery ourselves, so we haven't had a chance to taste their cheese.  (Also, there was so much demand that they were all sold out until June 15th.)  

From their pictures, however, their cheese looks delicious!  Rose and Tim Belforti make small batches of raw farmstead kefir cheese every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  In the video below, Rose shows how she makes her cheese.  Once you've watched it, you'll definitely want to try making it;

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