What is Raw Milk Cheese and Why Should You Eat It?

What is Raw Milk Cheese and Why Should You Eat It?

Have you ever crumbled off a chunk of classic Parmigiano Reggiano and wondered what made it so delicious? Well, one reason why this Italian cheese is so delightful is because it is made with raw milk. But what exactly does that mean? Raw cheese is made with milk that hasn’t been pasteurized or heated in order to kill off bacteria. Pasteurization can be beneficial since it can eliminate any potentially harmful pathogens, but it can also destroy native cultures that contribute to a cheese’s flavor, texture, and complexity.

When made correctly, raw milk cheese is safe to eat and can result in some of the tastiest and most traditional cheeses out there. That’s not to say that pasteurized cheeses are any lesser, we just think it’s time you try some raw milk cheese too.

Here are a couple of our favorite raw milk cheeses.

Parmigiano Reggiano

There are a lot of look-a-likes made in the United States masquerading under the shortened title of “Parmesan”, and these versions are usually pasteurized. The Italian original is rich with savory, umami flavors and crunchy crystals. It’s obviously delicious on pasta, but we recommend breaking chunks off of a wedge and pairing with Champagne.

Gruyère from Switzerland

You may have encountered this famous Swiss cheese on top of French Onion soup or inside a grilled cheese, but have you ever tried it on its own? With notes of toasted hazelnuts and brown butter, this classic cheese is delicious sliced razor thin and dolloped with onion jam.

Roquefort from France

Some say Roquefort is the original blue. Legend has it that centuries ago, a shepherd became distracted by a young maiden just after sitting down to a lunch of cheese and bread in a cave. He went after her unsuccessfully, only to return days later to some moldy bread and blue-speckled cheese. Upon tasting it, he fell in love with the punchy flavor—and Roquefort was born. While we don’t know if that legend is true, we do know that the herbaceous, spicy notes in this sheep’s milk beauty tastes lovely with Sauternes.


Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese (pictured above)

Made in the style of French Beaufort, this Wisconsonian is the most awarded cheese in America. Cheesemaker Andy Hatch uses only native cultures to make this firm, snackable cheese, resulting in notes of grass, sour cream, and melted leeks. Try it on its own, or pair with some salami for a perfect ploughman’s lunch.

Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy

This American original is similar to Italian Taleggio, but it comes from Virginia. The bright orange rind is an immediate signifier of the pungent nature. Underneath, it’s much more mild with flavors of steak, leeks, and custard. Try it alongside a Belgian Dubbel: the sweetness mellows out the funk.

Bayley Hazen Blue from Jasper Hill Farm

Hailing from Vermont, Bayley Hazen is a fudgy blue similar to Stilton, which is actually legally required to be pasteurized by English law. This raw-milk, American version has deep earthy flavors and a slight fruity sweetness, similar to dark chocolate. We like it best with a juicy IPA, which teases out the tropical notes.

Reading Raclette from Spring Brook Farm

Another Vermont native, this firm, meltable cheese is modeled after Swiss Raclette, which is traditionally served heated under a special grill and scraped onto potatoes. It’s a wonderful melter, but it also shines on a cheese platter. Bring out the notes of onions and meats with a swipe of whole grain mustard and rye toast points.



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Upcoming Events

A list of all the upcoming cheese events and festivals you need to know about. 

May

Fete du Fromage
Saturday, May 5th
Gruyères, Switzerland
A free event in the medieval town of Gruyères. With a cheese market, several artisans, musical entertainment and celebrations for the traditional production  of Gruyère. 

 

The Big Cheese
Friday May 24th through Sunday, May 26th
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
A Memorial Day weekend cheese immersion experience for foodies, featuring hands-on cooking and cheesemaking classes, a special tasting of championship cheeses through the taste buds of the grader, cheese pairings with wine, microbrews, cocktails, bourbon and tea, and more. 

Brockworth Cheese Roll
Monday, May 27th
Brockworth, Gloucestershire
The famous very old local tradition of cheese rolling dating back before the 1800s

Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival 
Friday, May 31st  through Sunday, June 2nd
Little Chute, Wisconsin
Located in the Doyle Park Festival Grounds, this three-day celebration features amusement rides, children's entertainment, animal petting zoo, walk/run, parade, cheese tasting, and more!

Pine Island Cheese Festival
Friday, May 31st  through Sunday, June 2nd
Pine Island, Minnesota
Pine Island Cheese Festival started in September 1936, and was held annually through 1940 when World War II interrupted. When the festival was reborn in 1949, it was switched to a weekend in June. Since then, the cheese festival has been the opening festival of the summer in southeastern Minnesota.

June

Kaiserwinkl Cheese Festival
Saturday, June 1st
Kössen, Austria
Delicious cheeses, music, and food vendors in the center of the village of Kössen. Entry is free!

Mondial du Fromage
Sunday June 2nd through Tuesday, June 4th
Tours, France
A cheese industry event with a cheesemonger competition and networking opportunities. 

National Cheese Day
Tuesday, June 4th
Our favorite holiday, for obvious reasons. Go show your local cheese shop some love! Don’t forget to stock up on cheese papers to take care of the leftovers.

Canadian Cheese Awards Night Market
Thursday, June 6th
Toronto, Canada
The first-ever Cheese Night Market is a unique sampling show where you can try and buy the best artisan and farmstead cheeses and products in Canada. You can also sample local wine, craft beer, cider, and spirits while listening to live music.

Salt Lake Cheese Festival
Saturday, June 8th
Salt Lake City, UT
Enjoy cheese samples from around the world paired with locally made cider from sponsor Mtn. West Hard Cider (which owns the venue) and the award-winning beer from RedRock brewing. Local cheesemakers and representatives will be in attendance to talk about the products being sampled.

Clayton Cheese Days
Friday, June 14th - Sunday, 16th
Three days of cheesy fun featuring a parade, Queen pageant, tractor pull, demolition derby and street dance, community wide garage sales, and much more.

The 8th Annual Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Festival
Saturday, June 15th
Westport, Massachusetts
Join us on Saturday, June 15th to taste an array of wines from the thirteen member wineries of the Coastal Wine Trail sampled alongside local cheese, chocolate, honey and artisan bread made locally in Southeastern New England.

Cheese Curd Festival
Friday, June 21st through Sunday, June 23rd
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
The town’s designation as the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin. Expect craft brews, a curd-eating contest, and an estimated 2,300 pounds of curds.

Door County Cheese Festival
Saturday, June 22nd
Door County, WI
Held on the same day and at the same location as the Uncork Summer Food Wine Cider Music Festival, the 1st Annual Door County Cheese Festival will feature a wide range of northeast Wisconsin cheesemakers and restaurants featuring small plate dishes based on unique cheeses!

Adirondack Wine & Food Festival
Saturday, June 29th
Lake George, NY
The 5th annual Adirondack Wine & Food Festival in Lake George showcases over 120 of New York's best wineries, breweries, distilleries, artisan food vendors, crafts, and food trucks the region has to offer, with the beauty of Lake George as the backdrop.

July

Little Falls Cheese Festival
Saturday, July 13th
Little Falls, NY
New York State’s premier gathering of cheesemakers. Featuring over 120 New York cheeses as well as gourmet foods, craft beverages, live entertainment and more.

54th Annual Colby Cheese Days
Friday, July 19th – Sunday June 21st
Colby, WI
Held in the birthplace of Colby Cheese, this annual festival includes a parade, tractor pull, and food vendors.

Finger Lakes Cheese Festival
Saturday, July 27th
Odessa, NY
Showcasing the cheeses from the members of the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance as well as the best in homemade, homegrown products in NY and PA. Featured FLX wineries, breweries and cideries will offer tastings, and be featured in exclusive pairing and cooking seminars

American Cheese Society Festival of Cheese
Saturday, August 3rd
Richmond, VA
Sample winning cheeses from among the 2,000+ artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheeses entered into ACS’s prestigious Annual Judging & Competition.

August

Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
Sunday, August 11th
Shelburne, VT
Taste the state's fine cheeses, local, foods, and beverages, and meet the artisans who make them. Spend a high summer day along the shores of Lake Champlain at the historic Shelburne Farms Coach Barn sampling, buying, learning, and networking. 

The Science of Artisan Cheese
Wednesday, August 14 - Thursday, August 15th
Somerset, UK
This two-day gathering of cheesemakers, scientists, and industry folks dives into the technical side of artisan cheese.

Arthur Cheese Festival
Saturday, August 31st - Monday, September 2nd
Arthur, Illinois
3 full days of street festival including crafts, food, flea market, sidewalk sales, parade, kids rides and games, and lots of cheese. An auto show, live entertainment, 10k, Amish strongman competition, antique tractor show… something for every one. Free cheese each day.

Cheese-A-Palooza
Saturday, August 31st - Sunday, September 1st
Kenosha, WI
Happenings Magazine and the City of Kenosha are once again teaming up to create an event celebrating Wisconsin's tastiest product - cheese! Featuring multiple stages of live entertainment, food eating contests, food vendors, family friendly activities, and more.


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