What is Raw Milk Cheese?

What is Raw Milk Cheese?

Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but raw milk cheeses can be quite the topic of conversation in the cheese world. Either way, don’t fret! Antonelli’s is here to save you the headache of endless Google-ing!

Raw Milk Cheeses: The Facts

Raw milk is fresh from the cow (or goat, or sheep, or water buffalo!), unprocessed and unadulterated - it's in its most natural form. This raw milk maintains all the original bacteria, enzymes, and flavors which can lead to a complex, rich, and nuanced cheese. Raw milk cheese is simply cheese made from unpasteurized milk or ‘raw milk’. 

Pasteurization is a process that involves heating milk to kill bacteria that could potentially make you sick. Pasteurized cheese is produced with milk that has been heated to a temperature of 161° F for fifteen seconds or to 145° F for thirty minutes or more. For raw milk cheeses, this means that some of the bad bacteria can transfer to the cheese. While it’s uncommon, diseases can transfer through the food - but don’t worry - the safety and flavor of a cheese are dependent on the entire making and handling process - from the feed and animal at the beginning all the way to the retailers’ counter (and your stomach!) in the end. 

For example, if you’ve ever had Parmigiano-Reggiano, you’ve eaten a raw milk cheese. Totally safe and totally awesome. Some cheese lovers prefer raw milk cheese because they believe it has a richer, more complex flavor than pasteurized cheese. Others appreciate the fact that raw milk cheese is made using traditional methods, and they enjoy supporting small, artisanal cheese makers who use raw milk in their cheese!

So What’s The Big Deal About Raw Milk Cheeses? 

Some of the first and most popular cheeses of the world are made with raw milk. Take Roquefort or Comte from France, and the classic Swiss Gruyère as examples. Not only are they delicious and safe, they also stay true to the tradition and historical cheesemaking processes while honoring the milk, animals, and farmers that produce it. 

Yet, doctors do recommend pregnant persons to avoid raw milk as it can contain that harmful bacteria, posing a potential health risk. This is why many countries have strict regulations around raw milk cheese production and sales. In the US for instance, any raw milk cheese that is sold must be aged for at least 60 days to keep things safe. This aging process is believed to naturally kill off any potential pathogens. Any raw milk cheese sold in the US is completely safe to consume!

And if you’re ever ordering a tray or attending an event at Antonelli’s, we can make sure that all cheeses are pasteurized if need be. Just let us know when ordering or while purchasing a ticket! If you would like to learn more about this topic, read this article: Why Raw Milk Cheese is Celebrated for Flavor and Scrutinized for Safety by Simran Sethi.

Why We Love Raw Milk Cheeses… 

There are several, mostly falling into the health and pleasure categories. Raw milk cheeses are a nutritional powerhouse, packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and beneficial fats that can support overall health and well-being - raw milk cheeses tend to have more vitamin B and C than pasteurized cheeses. And some of the leftover bacteria from the raw milk is good bacteria! The diverse array of beneficial bacteria found in raw milk cheeses can contribute to a stronger immune system and improved gut health, promoting a balanced microbiome and overall wellness. Enjoying raw milk cheeses can be a delicious way to boost your health. 

Raw milk cheese is also known to develop a wider array of flavors in aged cheeses, due to the natural flora, yeasts, esters and enzymes. The taste of the cheese’s ‘terroir’ is more apparent, meaning it’ll taste as if you’ve been transported to the exact place the cheese was aged. Terroir results from the combination of climate, soil, and the skill of the cheesemaker. For cheese enthusiasts, raw milk cheeses provide a chance to connect with traditional, artisanal cheese-making methods, supporting local producers and savoring the true essence of cheese craftsmanship.

Antonelli’s Raw Milk Cheese Selection!

As mentioned, some of the most well-known cheeses around the world are raw milk cheeses. And you know we’ve got them at the Shop. We’re open daily, 11 AM - 7 PM if you want to stop by and taste across our cheese case! We can help you pick out a perfect raw milk cheese for you to snack on or use in your next cooking excursion! 

We also have a plethora of classes, tastings, and dinner series at our Cheese House almost every evening where you can taste and compare all types of cheeses! Be your own judge on raw milk VS. pasteurized milk cheeses. We all know that you can’t knock it ‘til you try it! And with food, you’ve got to try it all. 

Regardless of your milk preference, one thing is certain: Cheese is a testament to the magic that occurs when simple ingredients are transformed through time, temperature, and technique. Next time you savor a piece of cheese (hopefully from our Shop or at our Cheese House!), remember the journey it took from udder to your plate. Whether raw or pasteurized, it's all delicious in the end!

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