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Artisan Cheese: What is it?

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

To understand what real cheese is, it is important to know the distinction between artisanal cheeses and well... all the rest. Artisanal cheese is handmade, primarily by small independent cheese makers, using traditional methods with no adaptions for efficiency. The word Artisan means, “a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand or in a non-mechanized way, using high-quality products”(Oxford). Artisan cheese makers lovingly oversee every aspect of the cheese making, they maintain the highest of standards, and their focus is on quality, not quantity.

Aside from the incredible selection of boutique wines we carry here at Complexity, we are especially proud of the large selection of artisan cheeses we offer. When we opened our doors in Jan of 2019, we started with a selection of 18 different cheeses, and now our inventory has more than doubled to over 40. Our goal is to celebrate Artisan Cheese, the world's finest!

Prior to selecting cheese for Complexity we do research on the farm, cheese processing and types of cheeses the Artisan produces. True artisanal cheeses are made with unpasteurized milk that originate from the animals of a single-family farm. Most artisan cheeses are organic due to the high standards they use to maintain quality. There are no artificial treatments or ingredients introduced during any stage starting from animal husbandry to the actual process of cheese making. All are humane certified, and some cheese makers are so proud of their herds that they will even introduce them on their sites by name and give the animals credit for which cheeses their milk contributes to. The stories, photo galleries and family backgrounds you discover from their websites are incredible. The pride of what they have built, produced, and maintain is inspiring. A great example is Cypress Grove Farms from northern California. Yes, we do carry Humboldt Fog and YES, it is AMAZING! If you have not tried it, you have to come in and ask for a sample.

So what are all the rest of the cheeses? I am going to use the term “processed” cheese to cover all the remaining cheese foods available. Typically, when you hear the word “processed” you think of Cheese Whiz or Velveeta but I am using the term processed to describe all non-artisan cheeses due to the difference in both ingredients and how the cheese is made. Artisanal cheese is literally handmade from beginning to end and not managed by machinery or computers. Many processed cheeses will often be made with real milk; however, due to the high production requirements they will use chemical additives that provide color, flavor and preserve the cheese. Artisan cheeses will develop color, texture, and flavor over time which is not conducive to high production needs. Artisan cheeses will never contain artificial additives or have their label read: “contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils”. Real artisanal cheese is made from milk, starter cultures, rennet or plant coagulant, and occasionally natural coloring or a mold culture (Max McCallman).

I am not implying that processed cheese does not taste good, but it is singular in flavor and will offer few surprises.A readily available grated cheese from a grocery store will taste good and has its place as a topping on salads, pastas and a great taco but the flavor is the same from the day it is made to the day you eat it. Artisan cheese is alive just like wine, the animals that produce the milk are affected by what they eat, weather, environment, and treatment. No cheese is alike. What type of milk was it made from? Cow, goat, buffalo, sheep? What breed? What season was it? Was it pressed or non-pressed? Does it have a bloomy, clothbound, washed, or wax rind? What country was it made? Oh… the list goes on and on.

Because of all these variables, the world of cheese is incredibly enormous and why there is nothing in the world of cheese, that is better than Artisan! We look forward to sharing our knowledge and new discoveries about artisan cheese with you through these blogs. Thank you for joining us.

keywords: Artisan Cheese, Cheese Shop, Wine and Cheese, Small Production Cheese, locally owned, organic, organic cheese

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