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Delights of raw artisanal cheeses

ALL ABOUT FOOD:

October 16, 2007|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

You meet the nicest people when writing about food and you get the occasional delectable perk like being invited to special tastings. Recently, Sapphire held a cheese and wine tasting for 5 Spoke Creamery, a new, small, artisanal producer of organic, raw milk cheeses from New York State. Sapphire Pantry is currently the only venue in California where it can be purchased.

The charming and enthusiastic Alan Glustoff, the cheese maker, was a former food scientist who worked on developing such things as Cool Whip and Pudding Pops at General Foods. His lifelong interest in food changed direction and he became a specialty food broker and more recently a cheese maker.

He launched 5 Spoke Creamery because he wanted to bring packaged, hand-made, small batch cheeses to the supermarket in order to "bridge the great divide between the perceived qualities of cheeses found in the supermarket dairy and deli sections and those cut to order at specialty food shops."

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On his small farm in Port Chester, New York, he raises grass-fed Holstein cows that are free of pesticides and hormones and are certified kosher.

With a very particular idea in mind of how he wanted the raw milk made into cheese, he set off one day with a map of the Pennsylvania back roads and went from door to door with the hope of finding someone who would make the cheeses in the style he envisioned. He finally located an Amish farmer in Lancaster who made cheese, but only for his own family. Glustoff knew he had found the right man for the job but it took him two years of working on the relationship to convince this farmer to agree to make cheese commercially, from Glustoff’s cows’ milk.

What are the differences between raw milk cheese and the pasteurized factory variety? Raw milk cheeses develop more pronounced, richer flavors and their texture is much smoother. "Flavors of living grasses, herbs and wildflowers are evident in every bite," says Glustoff.

In addition to great taste and texture, there are numerous health benefits from raw milk. It has the enzyme phosphotase intact, which allows the body to digest lactose and absorb greater amounts of calcium. One ounce of raw milk cheese contains 300 mg of calcium but its absorption rate is three times that of pasteurized cheese.

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