Raw milk cheese: what is it? How it’s made and what are its characteristics? What are the benefits of cheese made from raw milk? Let’s start with one fundamental concept, to make cheese we only need 3 ingredients: milk, rennet and salt. So how it’s possible that there are hundreds and hundreds of traditional cheeses made only with these 3 simple ingredients?
Well there are many factors that affect a cheese. We can say that there is a fourth key ingredient that is the time that determines important characteristics of the cheese. Then of course we have to see the type of milk that is used (cow, sheep, goat …), and finally the technique of the cheese maker master. However there is one special factor that conditions the cheese more than anyone: this is the pasture. The close link that exists between cheese and territory. Italo Calvino wrote: “Behind every cheese there is a pasture of a different green under a different sky”.
This means that even if two cheeses were produced with the same exact methods of production and seasoning but with milk from two different pastures, the two cheeses would be different! Every cheese is the expression of the land where it came from. You may wonder why this long introduction: because this is the main feature of the raw milk cheese: to be the authentic expression of the territory where it came from!
The raw milk cheese is a cheese in which the milk has not undergone pasteurization and therefore the beneficial bacteria of the milk are not destroyed by thermal processing. Bacteria will influence the characteristics of the cheese preserving the smells and the flavors of the territory.
In the cheeses produced from pasteurized milk, the milk undergoes pasteurization process that destroys the bacteria necessary to transform milk into cheese. This is why to produce cheese from pasteurized milk must be added selected yeasts, often chemical. Pasteurization makes milk neutral, “lifeless”, depriving it of the taste and aroma of the area, getting an anonymous cheese that has no connection with the land and that can be reproduced identically in America, in China or anywhere in the world .
The pasteurization deprive the milk of its “soul” and partially reduces the vitamin and protein content compromising part of the biological value. The raw milk cheese therefore maintains the characteristics of the milk even from a nutritional point of view. It is rich in vitamins and beneficial bacteria that help to improve the immune system of children and adults.
The raw milk cheese preserves the link between the cheese and the territory: is an expression of biodiversity, is unique each time it is produced and it is delicious. Of course requires a little more effort as the integration between farming and processing of milk but definitely worth it, at least for us.
Think about this: it is no coincidence that more and more often we hear about food scandals involving the cheese. Recently a cargo of sheep cheeses traveling from Romania to Sardinia was stopped, confiscated and released by the police, creating an interesting case in the dairy supply chain. Just for the reasons mentioned above a pasteurized milk cheese can be produced in any place, at any time with milk coming from somewhere. The production today is less and less “romantic”, made of standardized products. This is a phenomenon that affects more and more all Italian producers, without respect for the consumer. That is the reason why the raw milk cheese is a viable alternative that respects the territory, protect biodiversity, the authenticity of the product, the tradition and the consumer.
At Podere Casale breeding and milk processing are fully integrated: the milk comes from our flock, grazing in the fields around the farm in Pienza. We chose to produce raw milk cheese, without pasteurization, just because we want our cheese is the expression of the territory where we live. Wild plants and herbs of different varieties that grow on our fields allow us to obtain a more aromatic milk and a very tasty cheese. Thanks to a balanced diet, our 150 sheep and 30 goats produce a nourishing milk full of flavor. The result is a tasty raw milk cheese, with its own strong identity and unique characteristics. Depending on the climate and animal’s nutrition our cheese may have a slightly different flavor from season to season.