Posts Filed Under The ‘Cheese’ Category

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Pinot Noir, in all its Guises

When we think of noble grape varieties, there are few that surpass the expectations demanded of Pinot Noir. The range in textures found in Pinot Noir is wide, the perfume is variable, yet the typical “Pinot” flavors are a little more predictable, flavors being flavors.

Pinot Noir has been called a sommelier’s grape. This is partly because it makes for a pleasant wine in most cases and it agrees with many foods. To “agree” with many foods is one thing, to “love” a food is quite another. And so it is with cheeses. Pinot Noirs seem to get along fairly well with many cheeses (except for most goats and most blues) yet it rarely falls head over heels with any type. Might it be said that this grape is comfortable in its own thin skin?

Some of the fruitier wines of this grape have greater success with the more assertive cheeses but a Pinot Noir that can stand up to a blue cheese is a rare sighting. I urge caution with that exercise; you will not want to shatter your gorgeous Pinot Noir with a bossy blue cheese. Once you have introduced that blue in the mouth, your wine will never be the same. However if you want to grow your catalog of successful cheese pairings for this varietal I recommend that you experiment with as many cheese types as you can find, keeping in mind that the pairings are more about the synergies between the cheese and the Pinot Noir, and less about the assessment of either partner. Putting cheeses and wines together can dramatically alter one’s appreciation for a cheese or a wine. The pairing principles apply to Pinot Noir no less than they do to other varietals: balance of fruity and savory, harmony of acidities, relative “size” of flavors of each, the complementing textural components, and the confluence of aromatics.

There are some notable cheese surprises to be realized with Pinot Noir. One blue cheese that actually performs rather well with a Burgundy Pinot is Roquefort. Granted, the Roquefort is outstanding and most Burgundy Pinot Noirs are no slackers either. The salt in the Roquefort contributes to the success of this match. Salt has a distinct way of highlighting the fruit in wines.

Another surprise I discovered with Pinot Noirs years ago was how well they paired with cheddars. Some say that cheddar is best paired with beer. Would that be because wines (Pinot Noirs included) did not have successful plantings in cheddar’s native land, southwest England? A little shortsighted, I say.

Pinot Noir marries most successfully with cow cheeses, young to well-aged. The bloomy rinds like Camembert and Pierre Robert can balance this varietal well, and the younger wash rinds such as Epoisses and Taleggio are good matches too. Again, the salt content in these helps flatter the grape. The pressed firm cow cheeses such Le Moulis and Tomme de Savoie find good synergies; Cantalet and the aforementioned Cheddars pair very well. The aged Alpine styles such as Tarentaise, Beaufort, Hittisau, Hoch Ybrig, and Prattigauer; all make good partners. The extra-aged 4 year old Gouda and Sbrinz dovetail nicely with most Pinot Noirs.

There are a number of successes to be found with the sheep milk cheeses, such as the Ossau Iraty, and with the mixed milk cheeses that include sheep milk, such as the Robiola due Latti.

Remember to be careful with the goat cheeses and the blues! These families of cheeses can take the fun out of your Pinot Noir. This likable varietal finds its preferred cheese partners in the middle part of the CheeseClock™.

Max McCalman

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Merlot, no Wallflower

Merlot had been largely relegated to the role of blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon, even though it is the most widely planted varietal in France today. The varietal suffered from an identity crisis for many years, and it still does, to an extent. California has been planting more Merlot lately, to the point that it will soon be one of the largest growing regions in the world for this varietal. Notable successes of varying weights are coming from Napa alone.

As with most grapes, the Merlot has its unique demands from its growing regions, or you could say that it yields different styles depending on the qualities of the terroir where it is grown as well as the goal of the wine maker. This is why lighter Merlots pair a little better with some cheeses and the bigger Merlots line up a little better with others. Regardless of the resulting styles, Merlot in all its dimensions marries very well with many cheese types and it clashes badly with only a few. That being said, Merlot should not be taken lightly, even though it has a “light” red wine reputation. When the rare cheese clashes occur with Merlot it is important that we do not “blame” the cheese. The wine may be delicious and the cheese may be delicious but sometimes they do not get along. Like a great guy and a great gal, they are simply not compatible. People can easily blame the cheese. This is one reason why it helps to first assess cheeses and wines on their own.

Merlot is no pushover. The grape should not be taken for granted. Looking over our cheese pairings we find that 100% goat milk cheeses do not make the Merlot cut, though there are a few cheeses with some goat milk in the mix that pair okay. It would be interesting to see if the “no-goat” cohort among cheese lovers might also be Merlot fans. The blues can also challenge the Merlots somewhat. The elevated butyric acids in blues are part of the problem. Merlot wines are not noted for their acidity – sufficient acid to harmonize with the acid levels in most blues. The more fruit-forward Merlots can match some of the mellower blues nicely but even those matches are rare. On the other end of the pH scale, the thistle rennet sheep cheeses do not balance the Merlots so well; those cheeses (Serpa, Torta del Casar, Azeitão, Serena, etc.) have a little bitter note which the Merlots do not. This suggests that Merlots pair better with the cheeses that are more middle-of-the-road on the pH scale. Relative acidities influence the success of cheese and wine pairings.

The traditional rennet sheep cheeses such as the Ossau Iraty, Pecorino Sardo DOP, Abbaye de Belloc, Idiazábal and Royale; all of these make excellent partners for the Merlots. Bloomy rind cheeses such as Lillé and Chaource, cheese types that can be especially challenging to other wines can pair nicely with the Merlots. Among the cow cheeses, some of the wash-rind cheeses can pair well with this varietal, Dorset among them. The basic pressed and cheddar-style cow cheeses make good candidates for Merlot: Windsordale, Cantalet, Brazos Cheddar, Le Moulis, and Tomme de Savoie (another cheese that can be challenging with many wines). The huge-flavored 4 yr. old Gouda and Roomano dissolve nicely with Merlot, tyrosine crystals and all; as well as most of the Alpine styles: Comté, Appenzeller, Hoch Ybrig, Gruyère and Scharfe Maxx. It is interesting to note that Merlot is one of the few successful red varietals grown in Switzerland. Then there is the majestic Sbrinz; that cheese gets along with most wines, reds and whites.

If you happen to find a little Merlot left in your glass at the end of your meal, try a couple of these cheeses alongside it. The finish will be memorable.

Max McCalman

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc, a.k.a. “Spring in a Glass”

Sauvignon Blanc in most of its expressions is a varietal I associate with warm weather more than any other. Refreshing, with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, most Sauvignon Blancs are inherently delightful paired with warm-weather cheeses, mostly the lighter styles. The grape grows in so many regions that you might expect that it can grow successfully anywhere. In fact, this varietal is particular, not only with where it is grown but also with which cheeses it is paired. When a Sauvignon Blanc finds a good match with a cheese it is invariably a very good match. Sauvignon Blanc pulls no punches. If a little Sémillon and/or Moscadelle is thrown in (as in white Bordeaux and some of the lovely whites of Napa valley) this changes the lineup of cheese partners somewhat, as does oak barrel fermentation (as in the Fumé Blancs).

The aesthetic relationships Sauvignon Blanc enjoys with cheeses are fairly easy to pick out: the balance of fruity and savory, the harmony of acids, and the overall size of flavors. The aromatic synergies between Sauvignon Blanc and different cheese styles may be a little less obvious, though at times I am reminded of lemon meringue pie. Technically, the acidity associated with the grape has a distinctive way of cutting though the butterfats in many cheeses.

Sauvignon Blanc seems to be so self-assured that you would think you can throw any old cheese its way and the wine will not suffer. This is precisely one reason why the disappointments can arise: the varietal usually yields wines that are not considered soft, wines that are perhaps a little less malleable with “bossy” cheeses. Other white wines such as those made with the Chardonnay grape have a relatively round mouth-feel; they are usually a little less acid and are more “forgiving” of demanding cheese partners. This is not to say that some Sauvignon Blancs cannot stand up to assertively flavored cheeses; they just do not occur as frequently. Some of the stronger cheeses can flatten a lovely Sauvignon Blanc down to insignificance.

This is why it is important to be careful with Sauvignon Blanc and cheese pairings. The go-to species of cheeses is goat, with the sheep cheeses following close behind. Many of the goat milk cheeses will start to come into their primes a little later in the spring. The mixed milk cheeses always seem to have an advantage with wine pairings, such as the Nettle Meadow Kunik, which is delightful on its own, even nicer with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Some of the cow cheeses in the cheddar family marry well (largely to the harmony of the acids with this grape) and some of the wash-rind or aged Alpine styles can pair well too, if the Sauvignon Blanc has sufficient “fruit.”

Some of my current favorite Sauvignon Blanc cheese partners include: Pecorino Sardo DOP, Ossau Iraty, Pawlett, Brazos Cheddar, Cantalet, Humboldt Fog, Fladä, Windsordale, Försterkäse (a.k.a. Bergfichte), Langres, Le Moulis, Sbrinz, Beermat, Comté, Appenzeller, Prattigauer, and Mousseron Jurassien. These cheeses are all at peak right now and delicious with Sauvignon Blanc. We will see a new crop of fresh goat milk cheeses coming in to fine form soon, again, always great with this varietal.

Max McCalman

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

I’ll take a Chardonnay, thank you!

I use to say that I thought that I was weaned on Chardonnay. For a go-to white wine, no other grape has come close. When people simply ask for a white wine, if any other varietal is included in the glass, I will bet that there may be a moment of hesitation, almost as though something might be a little “off.” Even for the A.B.C. (anything besides Chardonnay) crowd, the attractiveness of wines produced solely from this grape makes them hard to dismiss. By “attractiveness” I am referring to the grape’s many flavors and aromas, its supple mouth-feel, and its versatility with many foods. The Chardonnay wines can be so delicious that they can be enjoyed on their own. This is a quality that other varietals may also claim – that they can be enjoyed on their own – yet you can lose that appreciation for them more quickly than you can for the Chardonnays. Their wines seem to offer the complete “meal,” not just the beverage accompaniment quality. Some of those aromas and flavors can be found in other varietals, certainly, yet Chardonnay seems to have more of them.

You could say “No two Chardonnays are the same.” This would suggest a level of connoisseurship beyond the grasp of most individuals, even a bit of snobbery. Yes, they are different, yet they are unmistakably Chardonnay.

The appreciation for Chardonnay extends beyond the ease of its pronunciation. How many ways can you say “Chardonnay?” The name rolls of the tongue and the opportunities for rhyming with it are myriad. The relative ease of pronunciation reminds me of the name “Stilton.” This was the cheese guests requested most frequently during my Fromager tenure at Picholine restaurant. Far easier to pronounce than the French equivalent – Fourme d’Ambert – it may have given some diners a sense of connoisseurship, the recognition of a great cheese name. Interestingly, an old article in the Wine Spectator mentioned the success of pairing Stilton with Chardonnay. This sounded preposterous when I first read it, yet I admit that when I tried the two together, it turned out to be a good match. The success of this pairing was confirmed by participants in a Matchmaking Cheese & Wine class recently; the recognition of the successful pairing was virtually unanimous.

Like my favorite red grape – Cabernet Sauvignon – the Chardonnays appear to prefer cheeses made from cow milk. Some of the many cheeses that can pair well with Chardonnay wines with a couple of goat and sheep milk cheeses thrown in include: Affidelice, Appenzeller, Barely Buzzed, Beermat, Beaufort, Bleu de Laqueuille, Blu del Moncenisio, Brillat Savarin, Cheddar, Comté, Dorset, Fontina Val d’Aosta, Försterkäse (a.k.a. Bergfichte), Fourme d’Ambert, Hoch Ybrig, Humboldt Fog, Langres, Livarot, Mahón, Le Moulis, Le Moulis Chèvre, Roquefort, Roves des Garrigues, Rupert, Sainte-Maure, Sbrinz, Shropshire Blue, Stanser Rotelli, Taleggio, Tarentaise.

Yes, a glass of Chardonnay can be lovely on its own but why not elevate it with a fine cheese?

Max McCalman

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

My First Favorite Red

I clearly recall my first favorite red wine – a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I still reach out for them; they are my default wines. My first favorite food was cheese and to this day, no other food comes close to satisfying nearly so well. Unconvinced by the pairings I found in print, I took my own detailed notes on how cheeses and wines complemented each other. I thought Cabernet Sauvignon was not recommended often enough; there appeared to be too few cheese partners, and when I found suggestions the pairings relied heavily on the terroir factor, as though the ideal cheese and wine partners would be limited to cheeses and wines produced close to one another.

It is important to note that an acre well-suited for a wine making is usually used for that: producing grapes. Sometimes there is a dairy nearby so parts of that terroir factor may be supported, yet there is so much that goes into wine making, and arguably, there is at least as much that goes into dairying. To say that because they are produced side by side is just a little too easy. The cheeses and wines crafted close to one another can actually clash. As an example of one of those clashes I think of some of the Loire Valley chèvres of western France. There are three white wine varietals grown nearby that marry well with this family of cheeses: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and to an extent, the Melon de Bourgogne. You also find one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents produced in the area – Cabernet Franc. The Chinon made from this grape is cited as a good partner for those cheeses, yet most people seem to find this pairing to be very disappointing.

When I began experimenting with cheese and wine pairings I wanted to find as many matches as possible for my beloved Cabernet Sauvignon. I branched out to far-flung regions to find suitable cheese partners. From what I found it appears that the Cabernet Sauvignons prefer cow cheeses, which is a good thing since more than 90% of the world’s cheeses are produced from cow milk. The sheep milk cheeses can pair well with Cabernet Sauvignon, as they do with most varietals, and then there are the occasional goat cheese successes.

Some of the standout cheese partners for this most noble red wine include: Andeerer Schmuggler, Appenzeller, Fladä, Gruyère, Prattigauer, Sbrinz and Vacherin Fribourgeois, all from Switzerland; Barely Buzzed from Utah, Tarentaise from Vermont; Thomasville Tomme from Georgia; four-year-old Gouda and Roomano from Holland; Bra and Blu del Moncenisio from Italy; Cantalet and Le Moulis from France; and La Peral from Spain. None of these cheeses come from Napa but each of them makes great partners for these lovely California Cabernet Sauvignons.

Max McCalman

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

The Nose Knows

A question comes up frequently: how can a cheese smell so strong yet taste so mild? And conversely, some cheeses that have little aroma have a very strong taste. The short answer is that the tongue picks up five flavors only: salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami; whereas the nose can detect hundreds of distinct smells. Our nose picks up aromas arising from volatile compounds in the cheese while the actual flavors in the mouth are caused by other chemical attributes. The combination of the aroma and flavor provides the signature “flavor” of the cheese.

One interesting comment I hear refers to the stinky blue cheeses. Many blue cheeses are aromatic but none of them qualify as “stinky.” The “stinky” descriptor applies best to the wash-rind cheeses – those that have the beneficial b. linens bacteria on their rinds. Some of the younger wetter cheeses that have that surface bacteria can be highly aromatic, or “stinky.” A little ammonia can be one of their aromas.

Some people avoid tasting some cheeses because they assume that an intensely aromatic cheese will make for an intensely flavored cheese, one that is over-the-top. For those that risk a nibble of a “stinky” cheese, they are often surprised at how mild-flavored the cheese actually is. The imprints on our cognitive receptors (our noses and tongues) can fool us. They pick up different aspects.

It is interesting to see how cheeses and wines complement each other so well most of the time. The flavors usually balance each other out nicely: the savory note in the cheese balances the fruit in the wine; the more sour cheese harmonizes with the more acid wine; the overall size of the wine matches the overall size of the cheese; etc. At least this is how they usually start off. Everything seems to be working well, then in the finish there is a huge clash.

This happens from time to time. Fortunately the clashes do not occur that often, but when they do the cheese and wine may both suffer because of the bad marriage. Sometimes the cheese simply flattens the wine. When these mismatches occur it is largely due to the confluence of the aromas in the cheese and the wine. They simply do not meld so well. The combination of the aromas can elicit some blends that may remind you of something you would rather forget, or just as often, the conjoined aromas may remind you of a lovely romantic interlude.

Whatever happens, it is usually left up to the nose, or at least to the retro-nasal profiles of the cheese and wine. All the opening acts: appearance, flavor, texture, etc. all these may be in sync, yet the finish is what seals the deal between a cheese and wine. When all these elements are aligned, you experience the “marriages-made-in-heaven” and the matchmaking is a success.

The nose knows.

Max McCalman

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Plant Milks

Somehow, that does not sound particularly appetizing – plant milks – yet according to Gourmet News magazine there is a growing market for plant-based milks. Per-capita consumption of cow’s milk has been falling. I am okay with that. The article calls almond milk “the new white milk,” while soy milk is still ahead in popularity. According to Packaged Facts publisher David Sprinkle, consumers choose plant-based dairy alternatives for numerous reasons: either they are vegans, vegetarians and people concerned about antibiotics and growth hormones often found in cow’s milk, lactose intolerance, milk allergy, and the genetic disorder phenylketonuria.

Fortunately, phenylketonuria is extremely rare, though serious. Sufferers are advised to severely limit their consumption of several foods including meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, cheese, legumes, milk and other dairy products, as well as starchy foods, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, and corn. Limiting one’s consumption of all those foods alone makes the genetic disorder a very serious one. It is important to note that these foods do not cause phenylketonuria, but that these protein-rich foods must be avoided if one is diagnosed with this disorder.

If avoiding milk because you are vegan, there is no point in recommending cheese instead. However, if one is vegetarian, the milk is acceptable (depending on one’s definition of vegetarian) as well as most cheeses. The cheeses that would not be acceptable for vegetarians would be those that are produced with traditional animal rennet – a coagulant that is used less and less often. Avoidance of milk because of lactose intolerance makes sense. That intolerance is not a problem caused by aged cheeses. The younger fresh cheeses have very little lactose themselves, compared to milk. For persons avoiding dairy products due to concerns about the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, the use of those hormones is entirely avoided in milk destined for cheese making, and if an animal is on antibiotics, that animal is not headed to the milking parlor. Milk containing antibiotics does not make successful cheese. If the person’s resistance to dairy products is because of a milk allergy, that person might try skipping cow milk and cow milk cheese (the bulk of dairy products) as the occasional low tolerance to cow milk may be the problem.

In the meantime, while milk consumption falls, the consumption of cheese continues to rise.

Max McCalman

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Mastering Cheese in Twenty Hours

Our recent Master Series brought together the talents of several members of the Artisanal team, each member offering their expertise on different topics. We used to offer the series over the course of six weeks, one long weeknight per week. This format did not work well for out-of-towners so we consolidated the series into three days. Even that was problematic for some people: getting away from work for three days and paying for an extra hotel night in the city. So we consolidated the series into two longer days: Sunday and Monday. This has worked well for most people, although many students have said they would have enjoyed studying cheese several more days with us.

16058 Mastering Cheese in Twenty Hours

Actual cheese mastery certainly requires more than twenty hours, but with a little background coming in to our series, one can expect to become more masterful. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my editor: she asked me if I would like to write a book entitled Mastering Cheese. I asked her how long I could take to write the book, and how many words could I have. Neither the 15 months nor the 300,00 words were sufficient. Her patience allowed me an extra 3 months to write 450,000 words, 64,000 of which she let me leave in the final manuscript.

17dcpbb Mastering Cheese in Twenty Hours

I have always maintained that the best way to learn about cheese is to put it in your mouth. Kind of like a picture says a thousand words. Alas, there is only so much you can learn about cheese reading a book about it. Hands-on experience is invaluable. This is one reason that the Cheese Professionals certification effort endorsed by the American Cheese Society has an eligibility requirement. Work experience and academic training can be combined to meet the requirement to sit for the exam.

The twenty hours that a student spends with us in our Master Series can go a long way to help meet the eligibility requirements, more than the twenty hours alone. The series’ syllabus covers many areas, from the history of cheese, to basic cheese making, to pairing cheese with wine, storage and presentation, the nutritional values and safety concerns, all the way to cheese “business.” The series is geared to the professional, either in the retail or restaurant setting. Some people have a keen interest in cheese; call them cheese “enthusiasts” considering a change in careers. No other professional cohort has followed the cheese trail more than attorneys.

As people are preparing to take the first exam this August, several people have come in for our Master Series. Some people are already in the cheese business in one way or another. They take our Master Series to gain knowledge they can apply in their jobs. The networking opportunities usually lead to long-standing professional relationships.

One of the students in our last series was an established cheese educator and author, Ms. Jody Farnham. We also had Ms. Jane Bauer, the American Cheese Society’s Education and Outreach Manager; and Ms. Nora Weiser, the Society’s Executive Director. Needless to say, these students, combined with all the others from across North America made for a great group. This may sound like we had a large class. Actually, we have always kept the enrollments low, to give greater individual focus and interaction. As always, we also learned more teaching the series.

By the way, as of last year, the American Cheese Society includes the profession of Cheese Educator in the members’ jobs categories.

Max McCalman

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Cheese is not the cause of our Obesity Epidemic

Celebration Collection1 150x150 Cheese is not the cause of our Obesity Epidemic It is a pity that cheese is not a subject taught in medical school. Several physician friends tell me that nutrition itself receives little attention. We would like to hear our medical professionals expound the advice of Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Most cheese we know today is so far removed from that primordial life-sustaining mammalian milk that it should be no surprise that a group of physicians in upstate New York is targeting dairy as a cause for America’s burgeoning obesity problems. They have correctly noted that the per capita cheese consumption has tripled since the 1970’s. Concomitantly a growing rise in obesity has occurred, yet these two trends are not directly related. The causes of obesity are not linked to the effects of consumption of dairy products. Some of the larger culprits in this weight gain are not the types that most people suspect: whole milk and full-fat cheeses. Instead, a significant part of the blame rests with the low-fat and skim-milk dairy products, and their depleted weight-reducing qualities.

The Albany area Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has launched a graphic billboard campaign depicting grossly oversized abdomens and thighs, warning that cheese contributes to high obesity rates and poses health risks. The group has gone so far as to write the Albany school board asking the city to cut down on dairy products served in schools to help students reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

PCRM President, Dr. Neal Barnard, said in a news release “Typical cheeses are 70% fat,” which is blatantly untrue. The only cheeses that reach that level are the triple crèmes, which happen to have their own excellent weight-reducing qualities. Further he claims “…the type of fat they hold is mainly saturated fat — the kind that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes.” It is embarrassing that our physicians are so terribly misinformed. Suffice it to say, many of today’s western medicine practices are treating symptoms instead of recommending effective dietary prevention methods.

Cheese Clock Collection 150x150 Cheese is not the cause of our Obesity Epidemic The president of The New York Farm Bureau quickly pointed out that Dr. Neal Barnard who heads up this group is in fact a psychiatrist, and not a dietitian.

Regardless, even among dieticians there appears to be more cheese phobia than cheese appreciation. For the many that do accept dairy, the low-fat varieties are the ones that are usually recommended. These low-fat products may be some of the biggest shams the food industry has ever thrust on mankind. It is increasingly being recognized that it is not the fat itself that puts the pounds on, it is the consumption of excess calories that go unexpended. Calories can be derived from protein (which cheese contains) carbohydrates, as well as fat. It is too simplistic, as well as inaccurate, to say that fat that is consumed will automatically go to your abdomen or thighs. In otherwise healthy people our digestive systems have grand plans for the utilization of fats; the systems are not straight-shot conveyor belts to our waist lines.

Fat actually curbs our appetites by triggering the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that yields a feeling of satiety, and one that 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 (including their building-block peptides and amino acids), as well as many of the vitamins and minerals that cheese contain, all help to metabolize the foods we consume. After all, cheese is preserved milk – our first and only food for the first several weeks or months of our lives. This is one of the fundamental reasons why cheese can help us reduce weight if we choose to; it is a near-complete food which (except for vitamin C and fiber) provides all the nutrients we require.

Speaking of fat, the higher fat cheeses provide more conjugated linoleic acid, the valuable fatty acid. CLA has been shown to be an effective weight reducer in multiple studies. This fatty acid (which happens to be a beneficial trans-fat) is a by-product of lypolysis – the breakdown of the fats. Fat slows the release of sugar into our bloodstream, reducing the amount that can be stored as fat. Our LDL cholesterol levels can be raised by dairy consumption, however there is more than one kind of LDL and dairy fat affects only the benign kind.Connoisseur Collection1 150x150 Cheese is not the cause of our Obesity Epidemic

Cheese is such a near-complete food (especially the high-fat cheeses) that we can reach satiety long before we have consumed excess calories, calories which in turn lead to weight gain if not expended.

The low-fat dairy products contain additives which are high in dangerous oxidized cholesterol which can form arterial plaque. The pasteurized low-fat dairy products are nutritionally depleted through protein denaturing and the elimination of significant levels of fat-soluble vitamins; just to list a couple of the losses.

In 2005, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health studied the weight and milk comsumption of children. Contrary to their hypothesis, skim and 1% milks were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.

Cheese does not claim to be a “perfect” food but there is no more complete food available to us. Cheese also continues to enjoy an excellent track record for food safety, safer than fruits and vegetables.

To the PCRM group I say: “Find some other food to pick on. Cheese production offers the only viable enterprise remaining for the family farm. Cheese has suffered enough.”

Max McCalman

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Cheese and Cholesterol

“So, how are your cholesterol levels”? This is the second most FAQ I am asked, right after “If you eat so much cheese why aren’t you fat”?

I have my cholesterol levels checked periodically, just to make sure they are fine. In the meantime I eat a lot of cheese. I estimate that I consume more than twice the national average – more than one pound per week. A recent check of my cholesterol levels came in great: 91 HDL and 61 LDL. Those enviable levels are partly attributable to good genes but the extra cheese does not appear to be hurting.

Cheese Cleared of Cholesterol Charges is an article published recently by Vital Choices Newsletter; it appears to be a well-written and well-researched report. I agree with its premise: cheese should not be blamed for dangerous cholesterol levels. I have seen and heard convincing evidence throughout my cheese career supporting that belief. The assumption that elevated cholesterol levels (of the LDL, “bad” cholesterols especially) leads to cardiovascular disease is not supported by credible research indicating cause and effect, not that cheese has the propensity to raise cholesterol levels, good or bad. As the article points out, there appears to be scant correlation between cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Maxs Healthy Cheese Plate 248x300 Cheese and Cholesterol
It is interesting that some of the highest per capita cheese consuming countries happen to have some of the lowest incidences of CVD. Of course there are other compounding parameters at play yet it would appear to be simplistic, if not inaccurate, to assume that eating more cheese will cause heart attacks. Instead, more blame for cardiovascular diseases can be attributed to inflammations, many of which are reduced with the fats derived from dairy.

Fine cheese offers several benefits, pleasure among them: curbing the appetite, anti-oxidant properties, metabolism of fats and proteins, a full complement of amino acids for our overall well-being, and many others. It is no wonder cheese is gaining a following among health professionals, and then consequently from insightful media outlets.

Think of cheese as tasty medicine and not as a guilty pleasure. Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, stated it clearly over twenty four centuries ago “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Something to nibble on: Max’s Especially Healthy Plate, or sign up for Cheese & Wine 201. (Cheese & Wine 101 is not a prerequisite!)