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. Click the event title for more information and the ticket link.

September

The Maine Cheese Festival
Sunday, September 8th
Pittsfield, Maine 

A gathering of over 25 Maine Cheese Guild cheesemakers coupled with brewers, wineries, cideries, food trucks, and artisans offering up their goods to sample and enjoy. The festival is a fundraiser  for the Maine Cheese Guild, a non-profit trade organization that works year-round to educate Maine cheesemakers and elevate the quality of Maine cheese and dairy.

SF Cheese Fest
Saturday, September 14th - Sunday, 15th
Sand Francisco, California
California’s premier urban cheese festival features more than 20 of the state’s artisan cheesemakers showcasing their cheeses. Sip on local beverages, enjoy  live music, and meet some of the best cheesemakers in the area.

Washington Artisan Cheesemakers Festival
Saturday, September 14th
Seattle, Washington
This annual festival showcases a wide array of artisan and farmstead cheeses made in Washington. Meet the cheesemakers and try out their products! Tickets include all cheese samples and three drink tickets.

Lakeridge Winery’s Wine & Cheese Festival
Saturday, September 14th - Sunday, 15th
Clermont, Florida
Come for a complimentary wine tasting with samples of cheese to pair while enjoying live music, Lakeridge wine by the glass, beer, soft drinks and a variety of food available for purchase.

Slow Food Cheese Festival
Wednesday, September 18th - Wednesday, September 25th
Bra, Italy
Eat, drink and learn about cheese, wine, charcuterie, bread and pasta at the world’s biggest international foodie event. Held in the Piemonte countryside, farmers, cheesemakers, cheesemongers and affineurs take over the streets of Bra to celebrate the best cheeses in the world.

October

American Cheese Month
All month
Nationwide
Cheese lovers nationwide honor domestic wedges and wheels with classes, specials, tastings, and more. Ask your local cheese shop how they’re celebrating American cheese, or host a tasting yourself.

The Wedge
Saturday, October 5th
Portland, Oregon
A Farmers Market-style event celebrating cheese and the foods/beverages that pair with it. Sample and shop local, artisan cheese, specialty foods, beer, wine, and cider, or learn a little at a class or seminar.

Riverbank Cheese & Wine Expo
Sunday, October 13
Riverbank, CA
An annual tasting event that features locally produced artisanal cheeses, wines, and craft beers. Everything is individually chosen to highlight the best of the region.  

Cheesefest Australia
Saturday October 26th to Sunday October 27th
Adelaide, South Australia 
Australia’s biggest Cheese Festival and only Fermentation Festival has been combined into one event. Celebrate cheese and wine with all things fermented. Enjoy free cooking demos, guided tastings, and lots of snacks, too.

November

Massachusetts Cheese Festival
Saturday, November 2nd 
Somerville, Massachusetts
Sample and purchase dozens of different cheeses, beverages and local foods and meet some of Massachusetts’ award-winning artisan cheesemakers at this event that features educational sessions with local cheese experts.

The Global Cheese Technology Forum 
Tuesday, November 5th - Thursday, November 7th 
Reno, Nevada
This biennial event is designed to provide the latest technical information relevant to the cheese industry and provide knowledge, education and networking.

Cheese Berlin
Friday, November 8th to Sunday, November 10th 
Berlin, Germany
This annual fest in Berlin’s Markthalle Neun is driven by a Slow Food ethos; it’s a great spot to sample artisanal and traditional wheels from throughout Europe.

Grant Park Wine and Cheese Fest
Saturday, November 9th
Atlanta, Georgia
Don’t miss Grant Park Conservancy’s 2nd Annual Wine & Cheese Tasting Festival in Historic Grant Park. Featuring locally made wine and delectable cheese to pair it with, there should be something for everyone to enjoy!  

Cheese Festa
Monday, November 11th
Tokyo, Japan
Did you know that this will be Japan’s 27th year celebrating a national Cheese Day? Explore the country’s elusive cheese scene at this annual festival. 

Fête des Fromage
Wednesday, November 13th, Friday November 15th to Saturday November 16th
New Orleans, Louisiana
Back for a second year, Fête des Fromages, otherwise known as the NOLA Cheese Fest, is a celebration of all things cheese set against the backdrop of the culinary mecca of New Orleans. Taste more than 150 cheeses and meet cheesemakers from around the world on the grounds of the New Orleans Jazz Museum. 


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