Alright, so maybe my intro isn’t that strong this week. I went straight to the fart jokes before I could even give you guys any warning. Usually I make at least one mention of unicorns and Switzerland before I get to the potty humor. Sorry about that.
But, despite this little blog hiatus (Where did 3 weeks go?!!!? I really have lost all track of time. Ay yi yi. Five words y’all: eggnog, turkey, peppermint bark…eggnog.) the band got back together for one last jam. On the blog. And this week, I wanted to explain the differences between two important catchphrases in the cheeseworld. “Artisan” vs. “Farmstead.” Related? Important? Do I care?
The answer is. Yes.
Our cheese selection at the Bedford Cheese Shop is focused on products that are considered either “artisan” or “farmstead.” So what does that mean for someone like me: Billy Goodconsumer?
“Farmstead” is the easier to define of the two, and often the more interesting. If a cheese is a “farmstead cheese,” it is produced on the same farm that the milk comes from. So, while you can use any type of milk, make any kind of cheese, add any Craisins or Sprinkles that you want, you just cannot bring milk in from any outside sources. The farmer milks the cows and then makes the cheese with that very same milk.
“Artisan” is more of an unofficial term that gets thrown around the same way “organic” does. You pretty much slap the word “artisan” in front of the name of a product and people will go totally banana sandwich over it.
Basically, “artisan” means that a food item is produced by hand, in small limited quantities, to the highest of quality standards. For cheese in particular it means that the cheesemaker is following the tradition of hundreds of thousands of eons of other cheese making methods and try to keep everything clean, all-natural, and as machine free as they can.
BUT there isn’t really a set “standard” for what artisan means. Most people think it just means high-quality. Which it usually does. It usually means that the producer is paying close attention to the ingredients that they are using, how the end product tastes, and consider production more of an art rather than a way to make a buck.
It is basically setting cheese apart from “factory produced,” in which the cheese is made entirely by a machine. Robot pouring milk, robot checking temperature, robot shrink wrapping blocks of cheddar for lunch cafeteria tacos everywhere.
Is a farmstead cheese always an artisan cheese? Yes!
Is an artisan cheese always a farmstead cheese? Not necessarily. Milk can come from a variety of sources, and no matter how careful you are in the production of cheese, as soon as you remove the milk from the farm the end product is no longer farmstead.
So what is the benefit to seeking farmstead cheese? Often, the farmer knows exactly what the herd has been eating, how this is affecting the quality of milk produced, what fields will be the best for grazing, and spends a lot of time fretting over their herd in order to have totally bomb-tacular end product. In this way you sort of get “cheese terroir” – the flavor of the cheese reflects the subtleties of the minerals in the soil, the types of herbs or grass growing in the fields, the climate, and the water nurturing all the animals. You can taste the place that the cheese is coming from! Total sensory overllllloaddddd maaaaaaan!
But, this isn’t saying that all cheese that is “farmstead” in necessarily GOOD cheese. There’s lots of mediocre farmstead cheese out there. It simply means that ingredients and product come from the same place!
Hooray for summary. So, to wrap it up. Artisan cheese is dairy product that is the result of attention to craft and end product. Farmstead cheese is the same, but it all happens on the SAME FARM. Crazy.
Now you know why we don’t carry Babybel wax covered rounds or Pecorino Romano. Factory-robot bad cheese. They have no idea where that milk is coming from and are so removed from the end product that most people producing these cheeses probably have very little idea of how their factory cheese ends up tasting and feeling the way it does.
So get a clue. And come to BCS. Where we bring the farm. To you.
And in addition, I would like to wish you all a Happy Holiday courtesy of my favorite Korean sensation, a one Mr. Kim Dong Won.