In my world there’s one thing that I budget for throughout the year and order in quantity, with substantial thought about when I place my order and who I place my order with, and that thing is cheese. Now, you might ask, why all the hoopla just to get cheese? Well, I want to be sure that I’m getting the most nutrient dense cheese available. Stay with me to find out why this food is so highly prized worldwide, and why it should be a mainstay in your diet.
As many of you know from my bio at the end of my blog posts, in addition to being a semiretired nutritionist, I’m also a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, where Sally Fallon Morrell is president. She advocates that raw cheese is one of the top foods we should eat. She’s even stated that if we could eat just one food to help us survive a short-term disaster, it should be raw cheese!
The bottom line is that raw cheese is a highly nutrient dense food, and I for one keep it stocked in my fridge year-round. With this post, I hope I will to inspire you to eat more of this most luscious of all foods. (I’m getting hungry just thinking about that nice raw pepper jack I have. Smile)
Before I go on to describe the nutritional aspect of raw cheese (which, in fact, is real cheese), I’d like to point out that I consider many common cheeses a health hazard. These cheese products exist in great quantities in every grocery store, often displayed with such alluring packaging that shoppers don’t know they’re buying a fake, unhealthy, artery-clogging cheese product.
As Pandora’s Lunchbox author Melanie Warner states in this article, “Many ‘cheese products’ aren’t actually cheese, but are food products made from cheese. If the product says ‘processed cheese,’ ‘prepared cheese,’ or ‘cheese food,’ it’s 100% NOT actually cheese.” (Emphasis mine.) In my humble opinion, all fake cheeses are a bad choice, and those made with soy milk are to be avoided absolutely!
Watch Out for Misleading Raw Cheese Labels
Another interesting fact I discovered while doing research for this article is that many so-called raw cheeses are being sold at health food stores, but in fact they aren’t truly raw. At least not in the sense that most of us would interpret the word “raw,” meaning that the milk has not been heated to or even near the point of destroying the precious enzymes we all want in our food (or not truly raw due to some other issue).
The best resource for finding where you can buy truly raw cheese is the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide (or phone app). If your local health food store has truly raw cheese, the shopping guide may even list it. I personally prefer to order my raw cheese from one of the small farms sprinkled throughout our great country, many of which are approved and listed in the shopping guide.
The woman who manages the shopping guide does extensive research on each product that makes the list. She was kind enough to give me the following descriptions of each approved cheese category. The booklet also lists the recommended companies and/or farmers as well as their phone numbers. Whether you get the booklet or use the phone app, this guide is truly indispensable. You can then be sure that you’re getting truly raw cheese. The guide lists all of the foods by Best, Good, and Avoid, and here is how they apply those categories to the cheeses:
BEST: “These cheeses are made with milk from grass-fed animals, using animal rennet or non-GMO vegetable rennet. If smoked, must be naturally smoked. Many imported and artesian cheeses are of this type. (Many artisanal cheeses can be found through websites such as CheeseSociety.org.)”
GOOD: “Whole raw cheese made with milk from animals not grass-fed. Whole milk cheese made from heated or pasteurized milk, preferably from grass-fed animals. If smoked, must be naturally smoked (Note: Some cheeses labeled ‘raw’ are actually made from milk that has been heated.) Some are heated to just below the pasteurizing point. We have included these in the ‘Good’ category rather than ‘Best.’”
AVOID: “Low-fat and processed cheese, cheese slices, cheese spreads and other cheese-like substances, imitation cheese made from soy, almonds, help, rice, etc. cheese made from homogenized milk, smoked cheese made with smoke flavoring or liquid smoke.”
A whole book could be written about the tremendous nutritional value of raw cheese, but because I have limited space to elaborate, I will quote from this article by Dr. Mercola about the main differences between truly raw cheese and inferior cheese products:
“Even cheese makers will tell you that raw cheese has a richer and deeper flavor than cheese made from pasteurized milk because heat destroys the enzymes and good bacteria that add flavor to the cheese. They explain that raw cheese has flavors that derive from the pastureland that nourished the animals producing the milk, much like wine is said to draw its unique flavors from individual vineyards. Grass-fed dairy products not only taste better, they are also nutritionally superior:
- Cheese made from the milk of grass-fed cows has the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio of 2:1. By contrast, the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of grain-fed milk is heavily weighted on the side of omega-6 fats (25:1), which are already excessive in the standard American diet. Grass-fed dairy combats inflammation in your body, whereas grain-fed dairy contributes to it.
- Grass-fed cheese contains about five times the CLA of grain-fed cheese.
- Because raw cheese is not pasteurized, natural enzymes in the milk are preserved, increasing its nutritional punch.
- Grass-fed cheese is considerably higher in calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, C, D and E.
- Organic grass-fed cheese is free of antibiotics and growth hormones.”
As I mentioned in the first part of this article, I have some personal recommendations on the how to order raw cheese, which I’ve learned over the years. The raw cheeses we want to eat are made from milk produced by grass-fed cows out on pasture, eating lots of greens during the spring and summer months. Some of us have penned it “green cheese,” and most farmers know what we mean.
Because all raw cheese needs to be aged for at least sixty days, it’s likely that you’ll get green cheese by calculating sixty days from April or May to be sure that the milk in the cheese came from cows that ate lots of spring greens. The cheese and/or the butter will be deep yellow or sometimes almost orange in color. I generally order my cheese and butter supply in September or early October, and I always specify to my farmer that I’m looking for green cheese.
A good friend of mine preorders her supply from milk produced by cows that ate lots of greens, and she lets the farmer know not to ship her cheese until it has aged sixty days. Now, I’m not saying that milk produced in other months makes inferior cheese. It will just have a bit lighter hue to it, but the nutritional value is far superior to any other cheese you can buy. That’s especially true if you make sure to order cheese from the “Best” category in the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide.
A Little Plug for Sally Fallon Morrell
Sally makes and sells her own raw cheese, and receiving your first wheel of cheese from her farm is a truly awesome experience. Because it’s only sold in wheels, most people generally order a wheel and split it with family and friends.
Traditional Cooking School has this great collection of raw cheese recipes, all of which you make yourself.
Sally Fallon’s All Raw Cheese Cake
—Recipe from Nourishing Traditions, revised second edition.
And last but not least, here is Sally Fallon’s All-Raw Cheese Cake. As Sally notes, if you use raw milk, it will be 100% raw! Also, be sure to use whole milk for this recipe.
2 cups crispy almonds (see recipe in my Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD)
1 cup pitted dates
4 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1¼ cups whole milk, preferably raw
2 tablespoons gelatin (I use Great Lakes)
4 cups cream cheese, preferably homemade (p. 87, Nourishing Traditions), softened
½ cup raw honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
Pinch sea salt
In a food processor, process almonds and dates and almonds until they form a sticky mass. Press into a buttered 9×13-inch Pyrex pan to form a crust. Put egg yolks and milk in a saucepan and beat lightly. Sprinkle with gelatin and warm slightly until gelatin is dissolved. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, honey, and vanilla, and process until smooth. Add yolk mixture and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and place in refrigerator while beating egg whites. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold into cream cheese mixture and pour into crust. Chill several hours before serving.[xyz-ihs snippet=”Begin-Authors-Note”]
Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook
Ode to Cheese
What a friend we have in cheeses,
We can eat them without care.
It’s a food that always pleases,
Brie and chevre and camembert.
We are fond of fine fromages,
Full of vitamins galore;
For strong bones and nice visages,
A and D and K and more.
We eat cheese to get our calcium,
And when we hang out with pals, it’s yum.
What a friend we have in cheeses,
We prefer them artisan.
It’s a food that always pleases, cheddar, jack and Parmesan.
—© 2013 Sally Fallon Morell, with thanks to Marianne Gregory for the first line!
Disclaimer from Maria Atwood, CNHP: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor or health practitioner prior to following any recommendations I make in my blog posts or on my website.