Thursday, 11 September 2008

Pasteurised milk v. Raw Milk in Cheese

I've done some posts on French cheeses and Auvergne cheeses (25% of all French cheese comes from our region) as a result in taking part in a session of the summer university of the French branch of the global organisation Slow Food.

The first session was on 'The Cheeses of the Auvergne' but the second one was a wider discussion about the pros and cons of raw milk versus pasteurised milk in cheese production and then a bling tasting.

Marie de Metz Noblat began by talking about what we mean by cheese (under French law) and also how to taste cheese.

Tasting a Cheese

Look, touch, smell, chew, swallow.

Notice the flavours, the smells, the trigeminal sensations (e.g texture on the tongue) and how the taste of the cheese remains with you after you have swallowed.

As regards raw milk versus pasteurised milk we tried three blue cheeses (one raw milk, one pasteurised, one pasteurised 'industriel' as opposed to 'fermier'), two Cantals (raw and pasteurised) and two St. Nectaires (raw and pasteurised).

The French Legal Definition of what is a Cheese.

Tasting card

Milk definitions:
  • Lait cru (raw milk - never heated above 40 degrees Celsius)
  • Lait pasteurise (Pasteurised milk - heated to at least 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds)
  • Lait thermise (Semi-pasteurised milk - heated above 40 but below 72 degrees Celsius)
  • Lait microfiltre (Micro-filtered pasteurised milk)

Essentially most cheese (in overall tonnage) is made from pasteurised milk because most cheese is made in cheese-making factories.

What they want is milk that can keep during the transportation phase, keep at the factory; eliminate problematic bacteria which cause inconsistency in the taste of the cheese (and the modern world likes consistency), spoiling, shorten the cheese's shelf-life or cause any health risks (lastly).

A litre of milk will have about one million germs in it; pasteurising reduces that by 95% to 5%. (50,000.)

Personally, I drink organic 'lait cru' which I buy at the market or get given by my neighbours, and I always prefer 'fermier' cheese over 'laitier'. I'm not dead yet.

No self-respecting French rural woman would alter such a dairy diet just because she was pregnant. That's not to say that more and more pregnant women are not avoiding unpasteurised products, but they remain very much in the minority and, here in the Auvergne, I have yet to meet one.

If cheese is made from 'lait thermique' it must be clearly visible on the packaging.

Fermier - Farm cheese: cheese made at the farm by the farmer with milk from his/her own herd. It is often made with 'lait cru' but NOT always.

Laitier - Cheese made from the milk of several herds in a 'fromagerie'/laitier i.e an industrial plant of some level. The milk used can be raw (rare for transportation reasons) 'pasteurised', 'thermique' or 'micro-filtered'.

The primary ingredient of cheese is water.

The origins of a cheese's aroma.

The milk is sterile when it comes out of the cow.

For flavour and smell: more important than the food or the race of the cow - the bacteria in the milk's environment.

Unlike wine tasters who tend to be more poetic in their descriptions, the French cheese making community sees itself as more scientific, and as such, has designed 'approved' technical terms to help people describe the flavour of a cheese. (Yes, this is true.) These diagrams are these tasting term charts that professional cheese tasters use.

As a result, any given cheese has a 'sensory' profile, explained graphically as below for four different types of cheese.

A 2002 study concluded there were 1000 distinct cheeses in France, so you can forget Charles de Gaulle's famous saying about the impossibility of being able to effectively govern a country with 360-odd cheeses.
That figure is climbing as a new generation of young cheese makers are doing remarkably well in France.

Why don't we make cheese from women's breast milk? The problem is that it is very low in proteins compared with the milk of cows, sheep, goats, buffalo, horses etc. (There might be other reasons too I imagine.)

Why does France have so many cheeses? Because it has so many 'terroires', a very French notion and a difficult to translate word meaning a combination of geological conditions, climate and people.

The four cheese making stages

And the results of the blind tasting? The 'lait cru fermier' cheese won out, in all three types of cheese, by a clear margin.
Interestingly however, from a marketing perspective, what seems to give added consumer value to cheese are not the words 'lait cru' but 'fermier'. And 'fermier' does not always equal 'lait cru'.
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satish said...

You state that the primary ingredient of cheese is water. That is false. The primary ingredient of cheese is Milk. Goat's milk, Cows, milk, Buffalo's milk, Camel's milk. All cheeses are be made by boiling milk and adding a little of lemon,or a little ofyogurt or anything that is sour to boiling milk until the milk breaks into solids and whey. You separate the whey from the milk and you have the cheese. You can treat this cheese in various ways to make different typews of cheeses. Basically you've to age the cheese.

Then you write about yogurt. Yogurt is not Card as you call it. It is CURD. There is u in it. Not a. In English speaking countries they call it CURD. IN AMERICA THEY CALL IT YOGURT

satish said...

Raw milk cheese makes no sense. To make cheese you must heat milk. Unless you heat milk you can't make cheese no matter what you have read. To separate the solids from the milk you have to heat the milk. You can heat pasteurized milk or you can heat raw milk. It makes no difference. You can pull wool over the eyes of ignorant fools and give them pasteurized cheese. But to make cheese you've to boil milk. That is what Pasteurization is. To pasteurize milk you have to heat it and keep it hot for a length of time depending upon the temperature to which you heat the milk. But to make cheese you have to add some sour substance to it while the milk is still hot. You can even heat curd. If you do you do not have to add anything sour. It will break into cheese and whey. But the cheese texture will be different. The cheese will be crystalline and will not adhere by pessing it like the cheese from milk will do,

Parangon said...

Milk is 85% water so, in fact, water is the primary ingredient to make cheese.

Parangon said...

Card here is not Curd but a Tasting Card. Something to write your tasting notes on.

sutros said...

A good story

GK Chesterton: “The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Voila: This book is a poetic view of 30 of the best loved French cheeses with an additional two odes to cheese. Recipes, wine pairing, three short stories and an educational section complete the book.

From a hectic life in New York City to the peace and glories of the French countryside lead me to be the co-founder of Ten years later with the words of Pierre Androuet hammering on my brain:

“Cheese is the soul of the soil. It is the purest and most romantic link between humans and the earth.”

I took pen and paper; many reams later with the midnight oil burning Tasting to Eternity was born and self published.

I believe cheese and wine lovers should be told about this publication.