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Mixed Blessings

cheese%252520with%252520fresh%252520fruit%252520%252526%252520nuts Mixed Blessings

Using blends of milks and creams to make cheeses may sound like a new idea yet this practice has been around almost as long as cheese itself. When a cheese maker has an excess of one milk type and a deficit of another he might just add them together into the cheese making vat. Or if it might be a family farm that had one milking ewe and one lactating cow whatever milk they did not drink they might mix together. The enhanced flavors in these blended milk cheeses gave an incentive to continue to mix milks for cheese making. Like having the best of both worlds, or having the best of all three.

Different species and breeds of dairy animals that graze on the same soil and that consume the same vegetation will produce different milks. Not that all the different animals will naturally choose the same foods, yet if and when they do, the nutrients that they individually extract from those plants will yield different flavors and aromas in their milks. The cheeses that are produced from these subtly different milks often become more distinctive than the milks themselves. This is certainly the case among the species – that different species yield cheeses with different profiles.

Blending these profiles together adds organoleptic qualities to cheeses. It is similar to wines produced from blends of grapes. The sum is greater than the parts. These blends can take a little edge out of dominant flavor notes in cheeses, the same way that blending grapes can smooth out forceful varietals. For example, some people just cannot do the goat cheeses (unbelievable as this may sound). Blending in just a little cow or sheep milk can reduce those “objectionable” goat notes significantly.

Another advantage of mixed milk cheeses is that you derive different nutritive values from different milks, or at least different relative amounts of those nutrients. For example, goat milk has more vitamins A and D than sheep or cow milk, cow milk has more Folic acid and Zinc than the other two, while sheep milk has more CLA and vitamins B2 and B12. In theory then, mixed milk cheeses should deliver a more complete and balanced grouping of all those nutrients.

Back to the aesthetics of mixed milk cheeses, the blends should offer a bigger “rainbow” of aromas, flavors and textures. The broader flavors should then lend themselves to greater synergies with wines and other beverages. This has been our experience that overall, the mixed milk cheeses blend in more successfully than the other single-milk cheeses. This bigger rainbow might seem to be a problem for successful pairings yet the blending actually diminishes some of those “rough edges” in the single milks, making these cheeses more forgiving.

Some of the standout mixed milk cheeses in our caves now include: Nettle Meadow Kunik, Cremont, La Peral, Robiola Bosina, Robiola due Latti, and Robiola Rocchetta. It is great to see that an old tradition of mixing milks is still practiced.

- Max McCalman

Spread the curd!
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Posted by Artisanal Cheese

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