Thermalized Milk: Are you all that AND a bag of chips?

ChrisatBedfordCheese / April 28, 2010, 12pm

Hey everybody!  I know it’s been a while since the Bedford Cheese Shop blog has been up and running.  Two whole weeks.  But don’t worry!  All of you fans out there who have turned into shriveled little prune like turds due to a lack of cheese information, Cheesepinions, and snark are now gong to be relieved.

This week, as promised, I thought I’d write something about a cheese term that I just noticed popping up all over the place - Thermalized Milk.

I have a feeling that this process has been around for a while, but I’m just noticing it as our store tries to sneak younger cheeses into the shop.  But what exactly is this process?  Is it actually cool?  Or is it yet another stupid restriction that the FDA imposes on cheese importation that prevents us from getting delicious dairy goodies into the country?  I set about one afternoon to do some research and figure out if thermalized milk is too kewl for school or is a total beta (fish).

Let’s do some back story first.

Imagine the world before 1865.  I’ll sum it up for you – everyone was a bunch of pussies.  That’s right.  Yeah, yeah – everyone was more polite, the world ran at a slower pace, art was a part of daily life and architecture, things were simpler…

Ugh. Gross. All these people have polio.

Ugh. Gross. All these people have polio.

FALSE.

The world was terrible and people were dying left and right for absolutely no reason.  One day you wake up and have a runny nose? BAM. Tuberculosis.  Dead.  Your friend who lives next door discovers a funny spot on his arm?  KABLOOEY.  Leprosy.  Have fun losing body parts on a remote island until you are nothing but hair and nubs.  But then came along the Industrial Revolution and the dawning of an era of new scientific and social innovation.  Wheeeeee!

What the F is going on. This is so awesome. Love the Garden of Earthly Delights!

This is totally the world before Louis Pastuer.

During this time, Louis Pasteur, a hunky young French whippersnapper and microbiologist, set about trying to figure out a way to prevent milk from just up and killing everyone he knew.  Milk can hide a lot of bad bacteria and was just obliterating hoards of these lame nineteenth century wusses with no immune system.  So he figured out that if you bring milk up to the temperature of 161 degrees and keep it there for 15 to 20 seconds, you kill off much of the evil bacteria that lives within!

Oh, yeah, Louis. Give me those bedroom eyes.

Oh, yeah, Louis. Give me those bedroom eyes.

Hence the dawning of Pasteurized Milk.  Sweet.  Count Chocula was never to be the same.

There are lots of really dope cheeses made with pasteurized milk.  Stilton. Humboldt Fog. Several types of Italian Gorgonzola.  So good!  Nomnomnom.  Finally!  Pregnant women fear not!  Your babies won’t catch listeria and you can rest well at night knowing that you can successfully binge on designer cheese.  Good for you.

But what’s that?  There are FOOLS out there that like to ignore the safety of pasteurization? What what?  Do they have a death wish?!

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized, therefore allowing the natural flora and fauna you find in milk to die a slow and natural death.  Many gourmands think that raw milk cheese is superior to pasteurized milk cheese because the bacterias and mold weren’t cooked alive and killed way too fast (like Cannibal Holocaust! Has anyone seen that movie?  Totally insane.).  This means that the flavor of the cheese is going to be more complex and interesting for the palate.

So. Good.

So. Good.

I mean, yes.  Raw milk cheeses taste different.  But usually not noticeably.  If you were given a really good piece of pasteurized cheese you wouldn’t spit it out because it tastes like gasoline.  You’d probably munch on it and think of how nice it was that this stranger just gave you cheese.  I find that you can taste major differences when you have two types of the same cheese – one that is pasteurized and one that is raw (i.e., Stichelton and Stilton).  And when you are tasting them back to back.

But raw milk purists are snobs and annoying – so get off your dangerous milk soap box and eat some cheese with the rest of us.  If it’s good it’s good.

So, there’s one more thing to know before we even get into thermalized milk. After WW2, America went into this weird 1950′s OCD cleanliness obsession.  Germaphobes everywhere.  So, in 1949, the FDA restricted the selling of raw milk cheeses that are younger than 60 days.  Supposedly all the natural bacteria die by then.  Great.  Way to destroy American palates forever FDA.  This means that here in the good ol’ US of A we can’t import many of the delicious, young, gooey, delicate, creamy raw milk cheeses of Europe.   And they hoard them. Because Europeans are selfish.

OCD much? Just pop another pill, drink a wine spritzer and CHILL OUT.

OCD much? Just pop another pill, drink a wine spritzer and CHILL OUT.

Just kidding.  This just means we bring in young cheeses made out of pasteurized milk – and while super yummers, they are just not the same.

So this brings us to the whole point of this rant.  Thermalized milk. Ah yes.  It just sounds great, doesn’t it?  Like the Jetsons invented it and it all takes place in some sort of Willy Wonka influenced factory where small orange men sing songs of dairy and salmonella.

Basically, thermalized milk is in between raw and pasteurized.  The milk is heated up to between 100 to 160 degrees for 15 to 30 seconds.  So.  Lesser temperature for a longer period of time.  What this does is very, very, very slowly pasteurize the milk.  The bacteria within very slowly die, but not as slowly as raw milk so they are allowed to influence the flavor of the finished product more.  It’s then allowed to cool and is reheated again when the cheese is made (because all milk is usually heated during the cheese making process).  So….it’s raw milk cheese that’s pasteurized.  Right?

Nope.

According to the FDA, thermalized milk cheese is technically raw.  And according to the EU, thermalized milk cheese is technically pasteurized.  Come on guys.  Get it together.  This still means that thermalized milk cheeses have to be aged 60 days before coming into the country.  Lame.

The FDA does have a point; thermalization doesn’t kill off listeria – the biggest fear of raw milk.  (I mean, the symptoms of listeria basically sound like food poisoning.  Fever, body ache, SOMETIMES puking and pooping, and “confusion.” Which sucks.  Or sounds like bad drugs.  Except it can kill fetuses.  Which also sucks.  But women all over Europe eat raw milk cheese and are still having healthy babies.  Although that may explain why Europe is….Europe.)

Ugh, losers.

Ugh, losers.

So – is thermalized milk that cool?  Not really.  But kind of – a better way to put it is: Thermalized milk COULD be cool.  Thermalized milk cheeses taste more like raw milk cheeses.  But, in the USA, we can’t import them unless they are 60 days or older.  So…..why not just make raw milk versions and import those?

This would all change if the FDA considered thermalized milk to be as safe as pasteurized milk.  That would mean we would be able to import thermalized milk cheeses that are super young because they are “pasteurized.”  This would open up a new world of young cheeses and tastiness for America!  Imagine – French goat cheeses that were 11 days old.  Or gooey Swiss cow’s milk cheeses that were aged for three weeks.  The flavor profiles that we could enjoy!  It would be like spring mountain air, touched with flavors of hay flowers and cool glacier streams.  You could basically taste the Von Trapps in every bite (minus the whole Nazi thing…).

So…come on FDA.  Ignore pregnant women for like 12 seconds and think about the rest of us that like to eat our feelings.  And let us eat our young thermalized cheeses.

At BCS, we carry a couple of thermalized Swiss cheeses (for example, the friendly and approachable Wolzen) so stop on by to taste them!  I tried to Google some of them but they are no where to be found on the internet…so you’ll just have to come in and try for yourselves.

Well that’s all from me….your favorite cheese ranter.  I promise I’ll be better at updating.  I’m all over this social media stuff now.  It’s my new “thing.”  I even went to a discussion group about it the other night – if you come in and ask me I’ll tell you all the hilarious details.  I’ll give you a hint: it involves Trader Joe’s Sauvignon Blanc and Yelp.

Great.  Ok.  BYE BYE!

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