News About Raw Milk Oversight at Federal Level

In March 2012 the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) released the results of a study titled “Nonpasteurized Dairy Products, Disease Outbreaks, and State Laws—United States, 1993–2006” which is now posted on their web site.

In response to this report, the American Cheese Society issued a “Statement on the Safety of Raw Milk Cheese” which put some of the findings of the CDC study into context, as well as made corrections to some of its statements (such as that it is illegal to sell raw milk cheese in the US). Among the assertions in the ACS statement are: “Raw milk cheese, when produced and sold under current FDA guidelines, can be consumed without unnecessary risk” when that cheese is produced under the following circumstances:

  • producing cheese in licensed facilities that are routinely inspected on the local, regional, and
    federal level
  • producing cheese under the oversight of licensed dairy handlers
  • aging cheese for a minimum of 60 days before it is sold

According to the ACS’s latest newsletter: “In light of continued scrutiny, and with the goal of helping cheesemakers adhere to the highest standards of cheesemaking, ACS’s Regulatory & Academic Committee is at work compiling Best Practices for Cheesemakers. This document, as well as a related Best Practices for Retailers document, will serve as a resource for the industry to ensure awareness of current regulations and requirements, and to provide tools that can be implemented to meet those requirements.”

Now, We’ve Got The Blues

The British Blue Cheese Workshop led by Kathy Biss from West Highland Dairy in Scotland took place last weekend and the participating Guild members all took a lot away from it — information as well as workshop cheese that they will now age!

We made four recipes in two different milks for contrast:

  • Blue Leicester — goats milk
  • Ascaig Blue — cows milk
  • Strathdon Blue — goats and cows milk
  • Lymeswold — goats and cows milk

The first two are made with scalded curd for a firmer texture, more mechanical holes, and longer aging potential. The last two have a much higher moisture content, and the Lymeswold actually incorporates a bloomy rind with the blue interior, though it will age no more than four to six weeks.

The contrast between all of these recipes provided and excellent background on what is needed to adapt any recipe to a blue recipe, and how to work with Penicillium roqueforti, which digests the milk fats for its distinctive flavors, but requires oxygen to grow. That’s why piercing cheese wheels is necessary to allow blue to grow inside.

As with any workshop, much of the information applied to cheese making of all kinds, and most importantly what to do when your make isn’t progressing the way you would like. In this case we needed to re-warm the buckets in which we were making the Strathdon Blue on the second day because the acid was not developing, which was evident because the curd was slow to reach the right texture.

Overall a great experience for Maine (and beyond Maine) cheese makers.

Kathy Biss will return the following weekend to lead a workshop on making Hard British Cheeses.

Monroe Cheesemaker Ruffles Some Feathers

Last weeks some folks in the Guild asked if I would go to the State House when the Farmer Brown supports marched on April 17th to provide the prospective of a licensed dairy processor.

There was a bunch of media there for the march (much of it was there for the Governor’s signing of new domestic violence laws earlier in the day), and I was interviewed after the media finished talking with the demonstrators. Here are links (WLBZ, and WABI) to the two stories that have been broadcast on TV news so far about the issue.

(I made it clear to reports that I was also President of the Maine Cheese Guild and that I supported the Guild’s Quality Statement, but so far they have preferred to identify me only as the owner of Monroe Cheese Studio.)

Use the comments section to let me know what you think.