Mike’s Cheese Corner: Milk Myths and Fat Faux Pas
This week we’re going to expand your knowledge base about cheese’s sacred main ingredient: milk. There are three major types of milk used in cheesemaking, namely goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and sheep’s milk. This the the holy triumvirate of cheese creation, as the milk will seriously determine and define the flavor of the finished cheese, and each milk has its own unique features. The flavors vary greatly, and so does the fat content. Many cheeses have gotten a bad rap because of a common misunderstanding of how fat content is actually measured, and we’re going to bust those myths!
Goat’s milk has the least fat content of the three types, and therefore the cheeses will follow suit. These fantastic fromages are often the tangiest cheeses you can every try, featuring very aromatic flavors and creamy undertones. The most important thing to know about goat’s milk is that the cheeses will often have a strong flavor and smell, and for cheese neophytes they can be a bit too gamey, a little too barnyard-y. Once the taste is acquired, however, goat’s milk cheeses are a symphony of flavor sung at high volume, and fresh goat cheese’s can be eaten very regularly without fear of an expanding waistline.
Cow’s milk is usually the middle path, often falling in between goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheeses in terms of fat content. The range of cheeses this milk can make is fairly astounding, and the fat contents also fall into many categories, some even more so than sheep’s milk, some even less than goat’s milk. A good rule of thumb is that the firmer the cheese, the higher the fat content, which I’ll explain in greater detail a bit later in the post. If you want to stick with the cow’s milk cheeses with the least fat, pick something very moist and fresh, as the fat will be less so, rather than an aged cheddar or gouda.
The last milk we’re talking about today is my personal favorite- sheep’s milk, sometimes called ewe’s milk. The oldest known cheese recipes call for sheep’s milk, and therefore many believe the first animal to be milked was indeed the sheep. Sheep produce the fattiest milk, and even the fresher sheep’s milk cheeses will have far more fat than comparable goat’s milk or cow’s milk ones. This is probably why I love these cheeses so much; they tend to have the richest, creamiest, sinfully decadent taste that really soaks your palette in flavor. Sheep’s milk cheeses coat your mouth also- a wonderful sensation in which every nuance of flavor is utterly inescapable.
One thing that needs to be said concerns the way fat is measured in cheese. The industry standard for measuring fat content refers to IDM, which is an acronym for in dry matter. Basically, this means that the fresher the cheese (and the higher its moisture content) the lighter the fat. For all you brie lovers out there, this is fantastic news, because those bries you always thought were too decadent to eat frequently are actually one of the healthiest cheeses you can eat. This also means that the opposite end of the spectrum, the aged cheeses, tend to be much fattier due to the reduced moisture content. The fat is very concentrated in the aged varieties, partly why their flavors are always so outrageous, and this also factors into the consistency of the cheese. Rock hard, bright annato orange aged Goudas are one of the fattiest cheeses around, whereas our delightful Fromager d’Affinois double creme brie is suprisingly gentle on your circulatory system.
To sum up. goat’s milk cheeses are the least fatty, cow’s milk are in the middle, and sheep’s milk are the real devastators. Fresh means less fat, aged means more, so the least fat you’ll get is in a fresh goat cheese, and the most fat is in an aged sheep’s milk cheese.
Next time you’re snacking on some brie, think about this post, and have another bite on me.
If you have any questions, comments, queries, or you want to know the difference between a white truffle and a black truffle, give us a shout here at the Villa, via the site, email, phone, or even on Facebook. And remember- the only way to know a cheese, is to eat it!