Americans love Cheese. That’s a fact. Last year, stats from the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that America’s love of all things dairy was continuing to grow, with the average American consuming 655 pounds of dairy products in 2020 – a 116 pound rise in consumption when compared to the same data from 1975 and a 19% rise in the last decade alone. Our love of cheese, it seems, is going nowhere, so is it now time to educate ourselves into choosing the best kind of cheese? And by this, we mean artisan cheese.
Chances are that if you pick up a block of a well-known branded cheese at your local grocery store, then you won’t know much about where it comes from or how it was made. Whilst there might be some information on the packaging, and you’ll certainly be familiar with the brand, you may not be able to find out much else about their production processes and how they value the animals involved in production or the people they employ.
Artisan cheese refers to specialty cheeses that have been primarily handmade using traditional processes to deliver a more complex and unique taste. Artisan cheesemakers tend to favor the old fashioned, manual methods of cheese production and create their cheeses in small batches, which gives a great variety of flavor and individuality from batch to batch.
Artisan cheesemaking and indeed the resulting product, is more heavily influenced by environmental factors including the type of grass cattle are fed on and changes in the weather such as drops in temperature or barometric pressure. These subtle differences can make for interesting variety in the flavor profile of artisan cheeses, which is why every batch is different. This is something you won’t find with commercial cheesemaking as there are more processes and added ingredients involved to ensure consistency, meaning you get the same cheese every time.
If you don’t like the idea of eating the same, processed, additive-filled cheese all the time, then it’s time you sought out some artisan alternatives, for the five very good reasons below:
- It is better for you. There’s a long standing myth that cheese makes you fat, and sure, if you eat enough of the wrong kind of cheese, such as processed cheese that has been mixed with chemicals and sugars then you might add unwanted pounds. Artisan cheese, however, is made using natural ingredients including milk, culture, rennet and salt. It therefore contains good fats such as Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) which boosts metabolism and is a good source of protein, which gives you energy and helps repair muscles and bones.
- It is better for the animals. Artisanal methods of cheese production support more sustainable farming practices and ensure that the animals have a good quality of life, where they are well looked after and are often allowed to roam free.
- It is better for the environment. Not only does artisanal production come with a lot less manufacturing, machinery, waste and energy use, but most small batch cheese makers tend to wrap their cheeses in wax papers to allow them to breathe and mature naturally. This is much better for the environment than the vacuum-packed plastic packaging of mass produced cheese.
- You can enjoy more complex tastes. Many artisan cheeses are aged and ripened to bring out certain flavor characteristics. This can lead to a complex, stronger tasting and more distinct cheese than something which has been mass produced to be sold straight away.
- You can support local or expand your flavor profile internationally. By choosing artisan cheese you can support the small-scale local cheese makers that are on your doorstep, helping to do your bit to grow the local economy and keep your carbon footprint low. On the other hand, you can also expand your tastes into new flavors from around the world by sourcing a good artisan cheesemonger who can do the hard work for you in selecting artisan cheeses from throughout the US and further afield.
The internet gives us access to a huge number of choices when it comes to sourcing gourmet, handmade produce, so you no longer have to live close to a quality cheesemaker but can instead buy artisan cheese online. This is great if you want to taste cheeses from around the world but don’t want to have to travel far and wide to find them. An online cheesemonger that specialises in sourcing artisan cheeses from small batch cheesemakers both here in the US and overseas, can very easily get you access to produce that you otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to try. With specialised and prompt delivery to ensure your cheese arrives on time and in perfect condition, it’s the next best thing to being on the farm!
Let’s not forget that artisan cheesemongers can educate us, not only on the benefits of buying artisan, but also on their chosen cheesemakers. From the history and location of the creamery to their animals, people and processes, as well as the taste profile and pairing tips, there is so much to learn about these new cheeses you have fallen in love with.
And that, in essence, is what eating artisan cheese is all about – finding new specialty cheeses that have been made with care and attention to detail and learning more about the kind of cheese you love. Whether you buy artisan cheese online from a specialist cheesemonger, or find a good local artisan cheesemaker, you can continue to enjoy this ever popular dairy staple knowing that you are supporting producers who are passionate about their animals and the cheese they make.
Cheesemongerbox.com is a subscription cheese service that sources small batch traditional and artisan cheeses and delivers them across the US.
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