Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cheese Rinds and Other Artisan Cheese Finds

You’ve probably never thought of the cheese rind of artisan cheese as important, but it is—as are several other aspects of artisan cheese vs. store-bought cheese.

As review, artisan cheeses are handmade in small quantities with respect traditional cheese-making—at Beyond Organic, we go beyond artisanal as our cheese is farmstead as well which means it is made from the milk of animals located on the farm where the cheese is made, ensuring a higher-quality product. By contrast, it’s hard to say where the milk comes from—let alone its quality—to make conventional or even organic store-bought cheese.

The truth is that the best and healthiest cheese choices are raw, artisan cheeses like what our ancestors have been consuming for millennia—from greenfed cows given no growth hormones and produce milk high in A2 beta casein, not in A1 beta casein.

We’ve already addressed the difference between A2 beta casein and A1 beta casein, but 99 percent of U.S. cows’ milk contains A1 beta casein, due to a genetic mutation in cattle that happened approximately 2,000 years ago. A1 beta casein is an outgrowth of this mutation that can adversely affect neurological, immune, blood sugar and heart health as well as inflammation and bodily systems.

Beyond Organic cattle—from which all of our dairy products, including our artisan raw cheeses—contain the “old fashioned” genetic profile, as was the case prior to the mutation. They deliver dairy products free of beta casein A1.

Now for the cheese rinds, the outside shells of cheese formed during the cheese-making process. They’re natural and edible, unlike other cheese coverings such as wax or cloth.

There are different types of rinds, but the more natural, the better, since the temperature- and humidity-controlled areas where cheeses are aged allows air to naturally dry the outside of the cheeses. This eventually becomes the rind, and it’s the more traditional, artisanal approach. It also greatly influences what microorganisms, i.e. probiotics, grow on the rind as well as the cheese wheel’s lifespan and its flavor.

The rind is so important that Rachel Dutton, a biologist with Harvard Medical School, says, “When you’re eating the rind of a cheese, you’re consuming more microbial cells than there are stars in the sky.”

She adds that cheeses are “unique microscopic worlds of their own,” and the rind is made of microbes, while the cheese itself begins a few millimeters below the surface. The rind is actually a cosmopolitan community of inter-connected healthy microbes that, among other things, keep the cheese protected from bad microorganisms and add unique flavoring to the cheese.

In short, the rind is essential to the microbial ecosystem found in cheese—something you won’t get with any conventional or organic, store-bought cheese.

So, go ahead and enjoy the rind on your artisan cheeses and avoid the store-bought versions.