kottke.org posts about cheese
Tighter FDA restrictions are keeping some classic French cheeses (Roquefort, Morbier, Tomme de Savoie) out of the US and even some American cheese makers are halting production of their cheeses because they’re afraid their products won’t meet the new standards.
In early August, these cheeses and many more landed on an FDA Import Alert because the agency found bacterial counts that exceeded its tolerance level. Cheeses on Import Alert can’t be sold in the U.S. until the producer documents corrective action and five samples test clean, a process that can take months.
Of course, French creameries haven’t changed their recipes for any of these classic cheeses. But their wheels are flunking now because the FDA has drastically cut allowances for a typically harmless bacterium by a factor of 10.
Even Parmigiano-Reggiano might be threatened by the new restrictions. Ridiculous.
A short film about how Neal’s Yard Dairy, a top seller of cheese in London, works with producers to make cheese.
I had a tour of the caves below Murray’s in the West Village where they do the same sort of thing as at Neal’s Yard. Pretty cool to see the process in action and to taste the same cheeses at different ages.
In France, pie charts are called “le camembert” after the cheese. Or sometimes “un diagramme en fromage” (cheese diagram). In Brazil, they are pizza charts. (via numberphile & reddit)
If you’re into cheese, you’ll want to take this photographic journey into a season with Swiss cheesemakers.
In Gruyeres, western Switzerland, from mid-May to mid-October, the fifth generation of the Murith family produces its distinctive mountain pasture Gruyere cheese. Each wheel of cheese weighs between 25 and 40 kilograms, and takes a minimum of six months to mature. The family produces 200 wheels each year to sell locally, using unpasteurized milk from their own herd of cows. Reuters photographer Denis Balibouse spent time with the Murith family over this past grazing season, capturing days and nights in the alpine pastures of Switzerland.
Market researcher Clotaire Rapaille was interviewed for an episode of Frontline on advertising and marketing back in 2003. I like what he had to say about the differences in how the French and Americans think about cheese.
For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don’t want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that’s where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.
I started working with a French company in America, and they were trying to sell French cheese to the Americans. And they didn’t understand, because in France the cheese is alive, which means that you can buy it young, mature or old, and that’s why you have to read the age of the cheese when you go to buy the cheese. So you smell, you touch, you poke. If you need cheese for today, you want to buy a mature cheese. If you want cheese for next week, you buy a young cheese. And when you buy young cheese for next week, you go home, [but] you never put the cheese in the refrigerator, because you don’t put your cat in the refrigerator. It’s the same; it’s alive. We are very afraid of getting sick with cheese. By the way, more French people die eating cheese than Americans die. But the priority is different; the logic of emotion is different. The French like the taste before safety. Americans want safety before the taste.
Veniamin Konstantinovich Balika recently used false paperwork to load his 18 wheeler with 42,000 pounds of Muenster cheese worth about $200K. Balika’s plan was to sell the cheese to retailers on the east coast.
“There’s a black market for everything,” said Sissman. “We’ve seen everything stolen. We’ve found stolen beer, stolen food, stolen machine parts, but this is the first time, we’ve found stolen cheese.
I wanted the opinion of an industry professional so I reached out to Aaron Foster, Head Buyer at Murray’s Cheese Shop.
I’ve seen a lot of people wondering how the culprit was planning to unload 40,000 lbs of cheese without raising suspicion. Is there such a thing as a cheddar fence? In my opinion, it really wouldn’t be that hard. While the larger retailers and chains — and, of course, Murray’s — have all become much more conscious of food safety and food security, there remains plenty of retailers who would jump at the chance to buy their product for pennies on the dollar, no questions asked. Literally as I wrote this, I received a vague email with the subject “RE: Special sale - Mega aged WI Cheddar”. I’ll pass, thanks. Groceries, specialty shops, and bodegas that work with perishables need every edge they can get to scrape by. Think about that next time you order your egg and cheese from the corner store.
And then I couldn’t help but find out more about stolen cheese. Cheese theft isn’t actually that uncommon. In fact, cheese is the most stolen food item of all with up to 4% of all cheese stolen at some point in it’s journey from maker to mouth. A cursory Google search turned up trunks full of stolen cheese in Michigan, 52-year old naked library denizens arrested with knives and stolen cheese, stolen government cheese in 1983(!), stolen cheese spread all over a Hy-Vee men’s room, video of brazen cheese wheel thieves, “the crushing authoritarianism of the Crown of England,” a cheese thief in Brooklyn, and a shoplifting celebrity chef. (thx, drew)
A truck carrying 27 tons of brunost, a Norwegian brown cheese, caught fire in a tunnel in Narvik on Thursday and burned with gooey rage until Monday. Closed during the fire, because who likes driving through tunnels of flame, the tunnel will take about a week to repair.
“This high concentration of fat and sugar is almost like petrol if it gets hot enough,” said Viggo Berg, a policeman.
Brown cheese is made from whey, contains up to 30 percent fat and has a caramel taste.
“I didn’t know that brown cheese burns so well,” said Kjell Bjoern Vinje at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
He added that in his 15 years in the administration, this was the first time cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads.
Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik…prints & more are available.
While you ponder what that might be a euphemism for, I’ll just tell you that in actual fact tennis player Novak Djokovic has purchased the entire 2013 supply of cheese made from donkey milk. Only £800 per kilo.
Wimbledon winner and world No 1 Novak, 25, wants the donkey’s milk cheese to supply a new chain of restaurants in his Serbian homeland. The delicacy, known as pule, is made in Zasavica, Serbia, and is described as similar to Spanish manchego. Donkey milk is said to be very healthy for humans as it has anti-allergen properties and is low fat.
In the vast cheese warehouses of Europe, robots are employed to flip the cheeses as they age. Here’s a Gruyere flipper:
If I hadn’t seen it on the official Emmentaler web site, I would have thought this video about cheese producers using geckos to produce better cheese was fake.
Pesky flies buzzing around our cows cause them stress. And this affects the quality of the milk. Which is why we quite simply put a gecko on our cows which gets rid of all these pesky flies — by eating them. The result is milk that is smoother, and cheese that is smoother too.
Update: sigh This is likely an early April Fools joke or whatever. INTERNET, I THOUGHT WE HAD AGREED THAT APRIL FOOLS IS STUPID AND FOR STUPID PEOPLE AND EVEN IF THAT IS NOT THE CASE TO CONFINE THE STUPIDITY TO ONE DAY, APRIL FIRST, AND NOT DO ANYTHING BEFOREHAND. God, I hate April Fools Day. Fuck you.
You’re given a name and you have to guess if it’s a cheese or a font. This might be the most difficult game I’ve ever played. (thx, @ziggy444)
But it’s not what you think. At Le Bernardin, one of the highest calibre restaurants in NYC, Eric Ripert and his chefs use “cheap, fake Swiss cheese full of artificial flavors” as a baseline to normalize everyone’s palates so that sauces can be judged fairly in the kitchen.
In terms of flavor, that cheese tastes identical all year long…so it give us a reference, and we can judge fairly.
Cheese. Is there anything it can’t do?
Making cheese: how to turn five gallons of milk into six pounds of cheese.
This recipe for a basic hard cheese works for any kind of milk. I primarily use my own fresh goats’ milk, but have made it quite successfully with cow’s milk purchased from the grocery as well as raw cow’s milk from a local farmer.
Update: No rennet? Just use lemon juice. (thx, nathan)
A glossary of cheese terms.
Giganti: A very large style of Provolone, typically weighing 200 to 600 pounds and measuring up to approximately 7 feet in length.
There’s a surprising amount of language around cheese.