Premier Gourmet, my local cheese shop, has begun carrying some new raw milk cheeses. One is Tumbleweed, an aged (8-9 months), bloomy rind cheddar produced by 5 Spoke Creamery in Port Chester, NY. Tumbleweed is made from the milk of grass-fed, pesticide-free and hormone-free cows. It is even certified kosher.
Tumbleweed is a very interesting and complex cheese. It has a creamy, nutty, sharp flavor with a slightly curdy texture. It is rare that one finds a cheese that is produced like cheddar (i.e., its curds are cut and pressed a good deal) but has a bloomy rind (i.e., a thin covering of soft, white penicilium molds.)
Most great European cheeses are made from raw milk. In America, USDA regulations require that unpasteurized cheeses be aged at least 60 days. This allows any potentially harmful bacteria either to die or at least to make itself obvious so that it can be discarded. Raw-milk cheeses are said to be richer, creamier, more buttery and more flavorful product than cheeses made from pasteurized milk.
Alan J. Glustoff, owner of 5 Spoke Creamery, says that because his grass-fed cows get to roam and pick and choose from a variety of grasses, herbs, flowers and weeds, the cheeses produced from their milk have a complexity of flavor that cannot be duplicated. Glustoff is a former dairy technologist who allegedly tired of testing yogurt and other products for big corporations. After becoming strictly kosher as an adult, he was frustrated that he could not find any kosher cheeses that were as good as the ones available to the non-kosher community. So, he decided to make his own "fantastic cheeses that just happen to be kosher."
Glustoff touts the following health benefits of raw milk cheeses:
BETTER DIGESTION: Only raw milk has the enzyme phosphataze intact which allows the body to absorb greater amounts of calcium and allows for the digestion of lactose.
STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM: Raw milk has all the beneficial bacteria and lactic acids found naturally in milk, which implant in the intestines and contribute to a stronger immune system.
FIGHTS ALLERGIES: Raw milk has a cortisone-like factor present in the cream, which aids in combating allergies.
THE RIGHT FATS: Grass fed, raw milk cheeses are one of the few foods that contain a perfect balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, a ratio ideal for your health.
CANCER PROTECTION: Grass fed, raw milk cheeses are very high in conjugated linoleic acid; five times more CLA than dairy products from grain-fed cows! CLA is among the most potent cancer fighters found in all foods.
BETTER CALCIUM ABSORBTION: Raw milk is rich in colloidal minerals and enzymes, which are necessary for the absorption and utilization of the natural sugars and fats present in milk. Conversely, heated, pasteurized milk becomes precipitated with minerals that cannot be absorbed, contributing to osteoporosis, as well as sugars that cannot be properly digested and fats in a form that contributes to a buildup of unhealthy cholesterol
The folks at Murray's Cheese, which claims to be NYC's oldest and best cheese chop, suggest trying Tumbleweed in your next melting pot of fondue. Recipes from 5 Spoke Creamery involving Tumbleweed can be found here. I recommend simply trying this uniquely flavored, delicious cheese all by itself.