Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Rant - Where'd the cheese go?

Ok, so we have plenty of cheese in this country. We have cheddar out the wazoo, in all different levels of sharp (extra sharp=extra yummy), we have Swiss, we have parmesan and mozzarella (my farmer's market sells some seriously yummy mozzarella every friday). So yes, we have options. But seriously, where'd all the really tasty cheese go? I'm talking the melty, smells-like-old-socks kind of cheese that explodes on your tongue like a scrumptious dairy bomb. Or the subtle hard cheese that pairs with wine and is just impossible to stop eating. There's triple-creme brie, melted goat cheese on bread, hard mountain cheese. We have goat cheese here yes, but the goat cheese I've liked the most has other flavors in it (citrus lavendar, orange cardamom), so it's less about the cheese appreciation as the flavor and the pairing with bread.

So where'd all that cheese go?

The problem in the states is the pasteurization (heating the milk to kill of the bacteria before making the cheese). There are restrictions on who can make and sell cheese, and for good reason (listeria and e coli). But while pasteurization does definitely cut down on the negative side effects of cheese, people have been eating cheese for a hell of a lot longer than pasteurization has been around. The French eat unpasteurized cheese all the time, and do we ever hear about massive e coli outbreaks in France? Non, pas du tout. The e coli outbreaks we hear about are in the US involving meat (don't get me started on the meat packing plants) and spinach.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't pasteurize, because pasteurization was a great advance and is definitely useful (especially for pregnant women who don't want to chance exposing their baby to bacteria). I just want the option to eat non-pasteurized cheese without paying an arm and a leg. The raw-milk cheese on the market here has to sit for more than 60 days before it can be sold, because the bacteria is most likely to occue in the first 60 days (I'm presuming they test the cheese before they sell it). So basically, the two most popular soft cheeses in the world (brie and camembert) must be pasteurized because they can't sit around for 60 days. And have you tried pasteurized brie? It tastes vaguely like cheese, but basically amounts to a high calorie, high fat cheese-textured spread.

And American cheese? Seriously, I think that was a psychology experiment to figure out how much BS we'd believe if they told us it was cheese. I know lots of kids like it (I did when I was a kid), but man, that stuff isn't natural!

I've gotten some very fragrant, mouth watering cheeses at cheese shops near me. But for a small wheel (maybe 4-5 inches in diameter), it'll run me anywhere from $10-$20. So I usually stick with flavored goat cheese and mozzarella, and occasionally spring for something fancier if it's in my budget.

I'll run through some of the really tasty cheese isn't another, non-rant post. But what are all your thoughts on cheese and pasteurization? Have you had European cheese made from raw milk? What kinds of cheese do you prefer?

11 comments:

Romny said...

I love cheese. There's a company in Sonoma (about an hour north of me) that makes their own cheeses. They have one store where they have the tourist cheese then.....there's the good store hidden down a side street that all the locals go to. You walk in and that stinky feet smell is the first thing that enters your nostrils. MMMMMMMM They make stuff like pesto cheese, hot pepper jack, garlic cheese... uuughhhhhhh. I'm going up there after work today. I might stop in and get me some of that cheese.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Mmmm, sounds good!!!

Leah J. Utas said...

I want raw milk and cheese made from same. I can't handle cow dairy anymore, but if I could get it straight from the udder I would do so in a heartbeat. We had milk cows when I was young. I put cream on everything. I miss it, and the crap off the shelf is simply not the same.

JavaChick said...

I confess to being a fan of extra old cheddar (favorite brand being Balderson's). Most of the time if I'm going to sit down and eat cheese, that's what I want. Husband is a big fan of Havarti. And of course we often use mozzarella, feta, parmesan & romano. As a treat, I do on occasion pick up an Saint Andre Triple Cream cheese. At room temperature, it's like butter. Yummy stuff.

WeightingGame said...

this will go against everything you stand for but I've been loving the Laughing Cow lite cheese wedges lately. Creamy and yummy...not too stinky, tho.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Leah, I forgot to mention how I made cheese once, and I made it with milk off the shelf of the grocery store. It wasn't that good. Cheese textured milk is what it tasted like. I should try fresh milk sometime!

Java, I like cheddar too, don't get me wrong! I think I like stinky cheeses because I don't have them often :) I just had some yummy yummy mozzarella on prince tomatoes with salt and olive oil with my lunch. Mmm.

WG, I've had the Laughing Cow cheese before, and it's not my fave, but I can kind of understand their appeal. Kind of like those little pacman cheese when I was little (don't remember what they were called, but after you pulled the wax "string" it looked like pacman). I do like string cheese though, but it's probably more because I like tearing it into strings...

Charlotte said...

MMmm... cheese is my chocolate! Okay, chocolate is my chocolate too. I deeply love both. But I'm with you about raw-milk and artisan cheeses being delish. I wish they weren't so pricey though! Like Leslie, I end up eating a lot of laughing cow:)

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I'm kind of the same way with bread. I hate that blah sliced bread, but give me a pricy artisanal bread? mmmmm.

Crabby McSlacker said...

I also have to confess to having somewhat Americanized taste.

Not processed American cheese slices, those are horrific and taste like plastic. I prefer "real" cheese.

But of the "real" cheese varieties, I don't tend to like a strong, smelly flavor and prefer a much milder taste.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Crabby, I do have to admit that despite my rant, there are some stinky cheeses that are just too much for me. I can't bring myself to eat the really moldy cheese, like Roquefort, even though I know that it's fine (and hey, maybe the mold will even help, like penicillin). I went to a party once and brought what looked like a really tasty runny cheese (looked like brie but with lots of flavor). And let me tell you, I couldn't eat it. It was just too strong! That said, I do like the medium-strong artisanal cheeses.

Anonymous said...

I think that cheese is amazing. My favorite has to be Pepper Jack because it goes so good on ANYTHING including my tounge. Yus, Cheese is the s(p(h))it. I don't really know why I wrote all that... but I say... GO CHEESE!

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