I love the flavor of raw milk cheese. Yes, it is different and better than pasteurized milk cheese. “Lait cru” is french for raw milk and it is what I now look for in a cheese. I try to buy only raw milk cheese and luckily, it is very easily available even in a basic grocery store.
I have a memory from many years ago of a French colleague sadly reminiscing about the lack of raw milk cheese in the US after a trip back to France (I think she had actually smuggled some in). So today, I looked up the status of raw milk cheeses in the US. It looks like raw milk cheese will be difficult to find, limited in variety (camembert for example is not allowed), and expensive when I do find it. I can already see myself yearning for raw milk cheese after I get back.
Which raw milk cheeses do I particularly like?
Camembert: I did a completely unscientific test comparing a raw milk camembert and a pasteurized milk camembert. Yes, a sample size of two. Very unscientific. However, the raw milk cheese scored off the charts in terms of flavor and the pasteurized was no competition at all. So even with a sample of two, the difference was so amazing that I feel justified in only buying raw milk camembert. The price is roughly double or more but cheese in France is so inexpensive it doesn’t matter.
Here is my current favorite:
Roquefort: I just love it. Didn’t do a test. Pretty much any fromagerie and any brand is good. Some house brands are slightly better than others – for example the Monoprix house brand is one of the best raw milk roqueforts we have tried.
Comté: This is my favorite hard cheese. It is hard to describe the flavor but “nutty” is the best word that comes to mind. It is like a gruyere cheese, slightly hard but not far past creamy and I believe it only comes in a raw milk version (I will have to check that out).
At this point, the only pasteurized cheese I buy is fresh goat cheese. The main brand here is Petit Billy. I don’t know for sure, but it may not come in raw form since it is so fresh. More on Petit Billy later.
What about health issues? I read some of the US-based articles about raw milk cheese. As is often the case, there were pros and cons, for and against. However, the bottom line for me is that I have no concern about eating raw milk cheese here in France. In fact, if you get a cheese plate at a restaurant, you will probably be eating it as well.