FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Many of our clients and visitors have questions about cheesemaking and life on the farm.
Q: How many types of cheeses do you make?
A: When we started cheesemaking, we decided to make a large range of cheeses so our customers would find their favourites plus something new. We wished to offer some of the more specialty cheeses, especially fresh and soft-ripened ones, often not found outside of Europe. Currently we have 13 types of cows milk cheese, and 11 types of goat cheese. In addition we make European style butter, and offer fresh pasteurized goat and cow milk in bottles.
Q: Is all your cheese goat cheese?
A: No. As a traditional dairy farm we started with cows’ milk cheese. We soon realized thatthere is an increasing demand for goat milk cheese, so after three years we added goats to the farm, too. At the present time 70% of our cheeses are made with cows milk, and 30% with goats milk.
Q: What makes your cheese unique?
A: All of our cheeses are made with the milk of our own cows or goats, using simple traditional recipes and methods. All of our soft-ripened cheeses are hand-ladled,which means gentle handling. The gentler the handling of the milk, the better the quality of the finished cheese (the fat in the milk breaks down with handling, begins to degrade, and can begin to become rancid).
Cheese made in industrial plants and even in many small ones, is vacuum-sealed as soon as it is made, and is aged in plastic. We, however, do not vacuum seal anything. Cheese is a “living” food that we feel is negatively influenced by sitting for months, even years, depending on the type of cheese, in plastic. Our cheeses are ripened with a natural rind or wrapped in special cheese paper. Of course this is much more labour intensive, but we believe the result is a superior cheese.
Q: Are all the cheeses pasteurized?
A: Yes, we pasteurize all the milk for cheesemaking. Contrary to widespread belief, it IS legal to make raw (unpasteurized) milk cheese in Canada, however those cheeses must be aged for at least 60 days before consuming, and be made and stored separately frompasteurized cheese. (Except in Quebec, where it is now legal for certified dairies to produce raw milk soft-ripened cheeses). Because we make small batches, and usually make more than one kind of cheese on a given day including cheese that is to be consumed right away, we pasteurize all the milk.
We have recently made a few raw milk clothbound Cheddars, which we are particularly excited about, but are not available for sale as of yet as they require further aging.
Q: Isn’t pasteurizing destructive to the milk?
A: Pasteurizing is a heat-treatment, which kills bacteria and some enzymes in the milk. In cheesemaking we replace those naturally occuring bacteria with various strains of lactic bacteria to begin the cheesemaking process. At the Farm House we pasteurize at the lowest possible temperature using gentle methods, so the milk retains as much of its healthy bacteria and enzymes as possible.
The reason for pasteurizing is to kill dangerous bacteria. Milk is a body fluid of a cow who lives in a barn environment where there is manure and lots of other organisms, such as insects and bacteria. Some of those bacteria are pathogenic, that is, can cause sickness, such as E. coli, Staphelococcus, Listeria, etc. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that the milk is infected with these bacteria (under normal conditions it is not) it is still possible for milk to be infected post-milking. Milk is a perfect food source for bacteria, so is deemed a highrisk food. Very great care must be taken to ensure that the milk is of highest quality. We produce the highest quality milk by good management practices, and have never had any incidence of pathogens in our milk or cheese.
Q: What is the difference between pasteurization and homogenization?
A: Pasteurization is heat-treatment to kill bad bacteria. Homogenization is a process whereby the milk is extruded through a very tiny nozzle in order to break down the fat globules so they can no longer clump together and rise to the top of the milk as cream. They are so small that they stay suspended in the milk, making it “homogenous”. Unfortunately this process destroys the natural ability of the fat to protect itself against spoiling, so homogenized milk when spoiled is not “sour” like old-fashioned milk, but goes “rancid”. Homogenized milk cannot be used in most cheesemaking, as its structure has been destroyed.
Q: Is your farm organic?
A: Yes, as of 2014, our farm and all of our cows and goats milk products are Certified Organic by Global Organic Alliance. Verified NonGMO status is pending.
Q: Are your cows grass-fed?
A: Our cows are grazed from the moment the spring grass is ready, until the fall, when the nutrient content of the pasture grass drops too low for good nutrition. The winters in our area are very wet, so the cows do not go out on the fields (they would kill the grass with their hooves in the mud) but stay indoors, where they can walk around and lie down where they please in dry beds, or go out of doors in the yard.
Q: Do you make any low-fat cheese?
A: No. Our cheeses have varying amounts of fat, but essentially as artisan cheesemakers, we use the milk as it comes from the dairy, slightly different every day. And don’t we all know the flavour is in the fat? Rather than buying tasteless low-fat cheese “products”, we recommend portion control as an alternative!
Q: Do you make any low-sodium or low-salt cheese?
A: No. In cheesemaking, salt is a very important ingredient, and must be present in very exact amounts, or the cheese simply won’t ripen properly. So-called low sodium cheese is further processed with added ingredients for preservation.
Q: What is the shelf-life of your cheeses?
A: It is difficult to apply a best-before date to many cheeses. Essentially cheese is a food created to preserve the goodness of milk for future use. There are many types of cheese. Some cheeses never go “off”, others become over-ripe, others spoil. The higher the moisture content, the shorter the shelf life. And everyone has as a different idea of what is “ripe” and what is not.
Fresh un-ripened cheeses, such as fromage frais or chevre have a high moisture content, so need to be kept refrigerated and consumed within a few weeks of production. Other cheese such as brie and camembert with a relatively high moisture content, are surface ripened, (meaning the mould on the surface “digests” the fat and protein in the cheese) and will develop an ammonia-like odour when over-ripe. While this doesn’t make the cheese dangerous to eat, it is not usually the most desired taste. In fact, most of the over-ripe flavour is in the rind so removing the rind from very ripe soft-ripened cheese such as brie will reduce the strong taste.
Hard cheeses such as cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan are designed to keep for many years, in fact continue to develop in flavour and texture as they age. Hard cheese types were actually developed to keep where there is no refrigeration available at all.
A piece of cut cheese will keep in your frig for up to 3 weeks without showing any spoilage, even longer depending on the type, and how it is wrapped. A piece of cheese can be vacuum-sealed once you bring it home for longer shelf-life.
Cheese is made of milk, which offers a wonderful food source for bacteria and mould. Any of these organisms present in your frig (they are there, don’t think they aren’t!) will eventually start populating the surface of your cheese. Fresh cheeses that have gone mouldy should be discarded. Firm cheeses can usually be scraped clean and eaten. In fact old bits of various left-over cheeses can be made into a spread (in French called “fromage fort”) by blending with wine or brandy and herbs and spices. Just pop everything into the food processor and process until smooth. No waste!
Q. Do you sell cheesemaking supplies for home cheesemakers?
A. No we don’t usually.
Q: I am using “200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes” and have some questions. Can I contact you?
A:Certainly, just email Debra at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will be happy to help.