Artisan Cheese Cultivators

This is a really fantastic post, by Jeanne Carpenter regarding a conference she attended about cheese. Jeanne runs her company, Wisconsin Cheese Originals, and promotes the state’s artisan cheeses. I really appreciated the love these cheesemakers have for their bacteria, it is amazing what delicious things happen when people work with micro-organisms. If only we could all really start to see our world like this and not all be so terrified of germs and whatnot. Lovely photo from website of the Oakvale Cave.

Bacteria Farmers

Read the full article here.

At a conference last week discussing how to differentiate Wisconsin cheese through “taste of place” (the U.S. version of French “terroir”), I heard quite possibly the best description that could ever be given to a cheesemaker.

Bacteria farmer.

The title rolled off the tongue of Ivan Larcher, a French cheesemaker and consultant, who via Skype from France, provided a 45-minute talk encouraging raw milk cheesemakers interested in crafting cheeses that reflect the flavors of their farms to also start cultivating their own starter cultures.

“Every farm is a unique microbial ecosystem, evolving with seasons and agricultural activity,” Larcher says. “If you pasteurize the milk, you destroy the bacteria and then you have to work harder to recover the flavor. So I encourage you to think of yourself as a bacteria farmer – concentrate on farming your bacteria just as much as farming your land.”

In Wisconsin, the majority of cheesemakers purchase starter cultures from commercial “culture houses” – think of it as a mail-order catalog where if you want to make Cheddar, you buy a starter culture for Cheddar, or if you want to make Swiss, you buy a starter culture for Swiss. But in Europe, many cheesemakers have cultivated their own starter cultures, using bacteria from their own land, and have then passed these starter cultures down through generations of cheesemakers (similar to the starter cultures used to make sourdough bread).

“I am a firm believer that what is in the air, the water and the earth in your particular area greatly influences the flavor of cheese. The minerals in the earth are in the grass that’s eaten by the cow, and we take her milk and make it into cheese, and that taste progresses from the ground to the consumer,” Chris said.

Read the whole article here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hannah

    Ha Bacteria Farmer that’s what I call myself too! 🙂 Those aging wheels of cheese were making my mouth water.

  2. Richard

    Great story. It makes the U.S. look provincial that they can’t handle a foreign word like “terroir”. Or is it the old “freedom fries” revulsion against all things French, still hanging on from the first gulf war? Or is it the “war on terror” doing yet more collateral damage.

    1. hellaD

      Ha! Too funny, I bet you are right about the ‘war on terror’ doing more collateral damage. It is all the same concept in the end–stubborn refusal to hear anything but what you have invented to be true!

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