Cheese these days isn’t what it used to be.
Photo by Courtesy Culicurious
Probably most Americans who grew up prior to the millennium consider American cheese to be synonymous with “cheesy,” or of little worth.
They may think of “processed ‘cheese’ product,” or individually wrapped slices of a yellowish substance masquerading as cheese. But, today, there are artisanal varieties of truly astounding American cheeses that measure up well against European offerings.
That’s because there is a growing movement of artisanal cheesemakers who sell raw-milk cheeses. Most cheeses found in the grocery are extensively pasteurized; that kills germs, including “good” bacteria that make cheese healthful and flavorful. European cheeses are not commonly pasteurized.
As the holiday season nears, our family enjoys raw milk cheeses. While only a few varieties are available locally (extensively aged), the Internet is ripe (excuse the pun!) with such cheeses. I prefer to order from artisanalcheese.com.
Doesn’t cheese have a lot of fat? Well, yes. But most health professionals point out that the amount of fat in a food is not the sole determinant of whether one becomes fat; it’s the total intake of calories and the amount of calories expended through exercise.
The Artisanal Cheese blog (News From the Cheese Caves, blog.artisanalcheese.com) gives a more complete picture. Fat curbs our appetites by triggering the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that yields a feeling of satiety and is directly involved in the metabolysis of proteins and fats. Other hunger suppressors found in cheese include certain peptides and their amino acids. Many of the proteins, as well as many of the vitamins and minerals that cheese contain, all help to metabolize the foods we consume.
Cheese is simply preserved milk; a near-complete food which (except for vitamin C and fiber) provides all the nutrients we require.
If the Legislature would allow raw milk cheese production and sale, Mississippi could join this movement, too.
Make Your Own Cheese
Why not make your own cheese? And serve it over your own homegrown organic greens? While most the exquisite artisanal cheeses are the product of painstaking effort, you can make a simple cheese at home using even regular milk found at the grocery (if it’s fresh and not ultrapasturized).
Saag Paneer (curried greens with cheese)
Paneer (Simple Cheese)
6 cups milk
1 cup water
Half cup vinegar
Heat milk gently to simmer, not boil. Add water to vinegar, then slowly pour it into the milk. When the milk curdles (separates) completely, stop pouring. Strain the curds in a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let it dry for 15-20 minutes.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion
2-4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 tablespoon fresh grated turmeric (optional, can use 1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili power or curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
A mess of mustard, turnip, spinach or other greens, chopped
Gently fry spices and nuts in a few tablespoons of olive oil, add greens cover and cook until tender. You can crumble the paneer into the cooked greens before serving as is, or brown it in an oiled non-stick pan first.
Serve over mixed whole grain rice, with a carrot or apple salad as a side dish.
Online About Cheese
Handmade cheese makers (video): cheesebyhand.com
Cheese blog (Wisconsin): cheeseunderground.blogspot. com
The American Cheese Society, for all things cheese: cheesesociety.org
Cheese blog for the serious caseophiles, translated from the French about international cheese competitions, etc.: fromagium.typepad.com/caseophile