Before pasteurisation came into practice in the late 19th / early 20th century, all milk and by default all cheese was ‘raw’. Pasteurisation is the process where food products (in this case milk) are heated to kill off pathogens. When dairy animals are ill or when milk is improperly handled, harmful bacteria can thrive, and people who consume these products – especially those with weakened immune systems – can become unwell.
Prior to industrialisation, dairy cows were kept near urban areas to limit the time between milk production and consumption, but as cities grew, and the distance extended from the pasture to the city, raw milk often took days to reach the consumer, and eventually became recognised as a source of disease. It was during this time that pasteurisation became an important way to prevent disease by killing off pathogens in improperly handled, contaminated milk.
Most milk continues to be pasteurised, and in the case of industrial farming by using milk from many farms at varying distances to the production plant this is still a necessity to ensure it is safe for consumption. However, there are now smaller-scale farmers working to produce raw milk of extremely high quality, and when we talk about the benefits of raw milk and raw milk cheese, it is these producers who we look to.
Why do we want to highlight raw milk? Unfortunately many smaller farms throughout Europe have been swallowed up by huge dairy businesses over the last few years, and in most cases these have switched to pasteurised products, which can be done more easily on a bigger scale. We want to help preserve the traditional methods of cheese manufacture, ensuring these products remain available, and help protect the small-scale producer by helping the public to understand and appreciate their products.
Secondly, we care about raw milk cheese because we believe it is a superior product. To make a raw milk cheese, the cheesemaker must know his milk. He must take the utmost care with it. In most cases, raw milk cheeses are ‘farmhouse’ cheeses, meaning they are made in the same place where the animals are grazed and milked, often just feet away, sometimes by the same people. There is a closer connection to the origin of the product, but this also means less distance travelled and a fresher product that is handled with more care. This can come through in the flavour of the cheese as well - when milk is left unpasteurised, it has an increased microbial diversity, which can lead to richer, more complex flavours. Pasteurising milk can strip away this complex tapestry, leading to something more uniform, lacking in the individuality that we respect in artisan products.
MEET THE MAKER: JONNY CRICKMORE
A group of our cheesemongers recently had the opportunity to visit Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay, and to meet Jonny Crickmore. We’re delighted to announce that Jonny will be visiting our Marylebone shop on Saturday 20 April to sample his fantastic Baron Bigod and Bungay Butter. Come along to meet Jonny and try his products and learn more about the care he puts into his raw milk products.
RAW MILK CHEESE BOARD
A selection of raw milk cheeses, which includes tasting notes, a box of La Fromagerie Biscuits and a straw mat for serving.
Bonde de Gatine, Poitou-Charentes, Goat
Camembert Fermier ‘Le Cinq Freres’, Seine-Maritime, Cow
Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage, Savoie, Cow
Soumaintrain, Burgundy, Cow
Roquefort Carles, Rouergue, Ewe
RAW MILK CHEESE BOARD
Date: Wednesday, 1 May
Time: 7.00 pm - 9.00 pm
Venue: La Fromagerie MARYLEBONE
Celebrating and demystifying raw milk cheese
In the spirit of international Raw Milk Appreciation Day we will be running a workshop to explore the wonderful, mysterious and misunderstood world of raw milk cheese. During this workshop we will discuss how this connection broke down in the twentieth century, the misconceptions that arose from this departure from tradition, and how artisan cheese makers are getting raw milk cheese back on track.
You will get a chance to taste seven diverse cheese that represent the tradition and modernity of raw milk cheese and we will talk about how raw milk fits into their quality and production. As we taste the cheeses you will get a more rounded understanding of how raw milk fits into the wider picture of artisan cheese production and indeed its limitations too.