Since the 1950s, invention of Government cheese- those processed cheese slices wrapped in plastic you buy at the grocery store- cheese has become an American household food staple. However, the similarities between your wine pairing Fromage and the slice equivalent of cheese whiz begin and end at milk being the main ingredient.
Mass Produced “Industrial” Cheeses
Most of the cheeses you find in your grocery store such as Kraft, Philadelphia, Sargento, and Bel group are industrialized cheeses - this means they’re mass produced in factories and mostly by machines. This means cheese is easier to make and more available to the public. While not inherently inferior to artisan cheeses, industrial cheeses tend to have a uniform flavor and texture as opposed to varied and experimental flavors and textures made by cheese master artists. Industrially produced cheeses are usually pasteurized, making them more available in the US. Non-pasteurized cheeses have a maturity waiting period of 60 days to remove pathogens and harmful bacteria from raw milk, which is tricky to import due to FDA regulations.
Specialty cheeses are produced in small batches with closer attention to flavor and texture than generic industrialized cheeses. Technically these cheeses are not considered ‘handmade’, but they have a much closer relationship with the master cheesemakers than with machines.
Handmade in small batches by a singular or small group of individuals, artisan cheeses are the home baking of the cheese world. Due to the small scale cheesemaking craftsmanship of these operations, it could be anything from an independent farmer trying to make some more money on the side of their milk profits or your friendly neighbor who learned to make cheese during the pandemic.
Farmstead cheeses are very specific in definition wherein the cheese must be made with the milk from the cheesemaker or farmers’ own animals - be it goat, cattle, or sheep. Farmstead milk cannot be bought from any outside source. If the cheese is made by hand and the milk comes from the farm where the cheese is made, the cheese can qualify as both farmstead and artisan.
At Farm Fromage we work with small batch Pennsylvania farmstead cheesemakers, distributing their cheeses online and in various affiliated shops. Visit our website to buy online, in store, and to keep up with special events such as wine pairings and tastings!