Yes, Virginia, there is a Michigan Artisanal Cheese
And surprise – according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan is the 8th largest producer of cow’s milk in the country, with 300,000 cows producing 5.7 billion pounds of milk. While everyone in Michigan probably knows about Pinconning cheese produced on a massive scale and sold in hard orange vacuum packed bricks, less well-known is that Michigan also has a few small scale cheesemakers turning out some very unique regional specialties. Some of these special cheeses include an amazing nutty and firm Raclette from Leelanau County and John Loomis’ incredible goat cheeses at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor.
Although the world of cheese contains hundreds of varieties, at Morgan and York’s fabulous cheese class they teach that cheese falls into 6 main types of “recipes.” These categories are: 1) Fresh (like Fromage Frais or Mascarpone), 2) Soft (like Chevre or Mozzarella), 3) Washed rind (Munster, Epoisses), 4) Cooked curd (Comte, Gruyere), 5) Blue (Gorgonzola, Stilton), and 6) Hard (Cheddar, Piave). Each individual cheese is its own little ecosystem, with both good bacteria acting to create many of the nuanced flavors and forms of the cheese and bad bacteria that can be kept in check with cleanliness and the health of the good bacteria. Interestingly, there is a Michigan made cheese in each of the main categories of cheese except blue.
Cheese *IS* Milk
Because cheese *is* milk, concentrated 5-10 times in the process of cooking, pressing, and aging, the quality, treatment and taste of the milk that makes the cheese are paramount in the ultimate fullness and flavor of the finished cheese.
One of the main debates in Michigan and elsewhere around artisanal cheese is Continue reading