Beginning in the 17th century, English and Dutch immigrants and later German and Italian arrivals brought their cheesemaking skills to the New World. They produced American cheeses by making raw milk versions of traditional European cheeses.
Over the past 350 years, American cheesemakers ‘domesticated’ these cheeses: Dry Jack, Teleme, and Brick are examples of American cheeses based on European originals (Parmesan, Taleggio, and Limburger, respectively). In the mid-19th century, the invention of pasteurization and industrial production resulted in the loss of most small-scale raw milk cheese making in the United States.
Over the past 25 years, American cheesemakers have developed extraordinary handcrafted raw milk cheeses that highlight the unique flavors of the land, soil and climate where they originate. Often invented or based loosely on existing cheeses, American raw milk cheeses are as unique as the cheesemakers themselves and they reflect as much about the cheesemaker’s persona as they do their terroir. Hard, soft, cooked curd, washed rind, pressed, wrapped, they vary from huge 40-kilo wheels to tiny 100-gram forms, and are wrapped in leaves, sprinkled with ash or crusted in salt.
The cheeses included in this Presidium project have a few common denominators: they are made with raw milk from either the cheesemaker’s or a local farm, and created by individuals with a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture and artisan production.
In the United States, the sale of raw milk cheeses that are aged less than 60 days is illegal. Due to the lack of a regional identity, the difficulties in collaboration between different producers (they may be hundreds of miles apart), and uncertain and ever changing health and food safety regulations, establishing production standards for American raw milk cheese has been extremely challenging.
Some Presidium cheesemakers work with one cheese, while others make several different types. One result of this innovation is a growing consumer awareness and demand for American raw milk cheese in cities and rural areas.
The producers work with great respect for the diversity of this region: for its pastures and woodlands as well as for their herds and flocks. They exclusively use raw milk from their own animals, producing high-quality cheese that it is flavourful, nutritious and healthy. The 31 Presidium cheeses meet the strict rules of the production specification: they are all produced with raw milk from cows treated with humanity and that live in environmentally-friendly farms. All the cheese produced is evaluated for its general quality and to ensure its authenticity and goodness.The Presidium members decided to work actively to achieve the standards set out in the 2007 regulations. To improve the production quality of raw milk cheeses, every cheese producer that joins the Presidium will have to work towards meeting all of the criteria listed in the document within the first six years.
For a list of producers and contact information, visit the Ark of Taste link at:
The Raw Milk Cheese Presidium is administered by the Raw Milk Cheesemakers’ Association
tel. +1 2176432314