How can a cheese-lover find the right pairings with a cup of tea? What about the tastiest match between cheeses and different types of honey?
These and many other cheese-related mysteries can be explored April 16 at 570 events in 10 different countries that will bring flavor and texture to the second annual Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day, a celebration of traditional cheeses.
Every Whole Foods Market in the United States will hold tastings, independent cheese stores will offer up their best, and international participants will range from England’s Neal’s Yard Dairy to the Brazilian government. (The full event listings are here, and a map there shows the location of each event.)
The heritage of raw milk cheeses
“This is the intersection of food and heritage,” said Carlos Yescas, program director for the Oldways Cheese Coalition. “Most cheeses are made with raw milk because they have a very specific idea of what they want to achieve, with traditional methods.”
April is not traditionally a strong month for cheese sales, so the celebration has created an opportunity for cheesemakers to either organize events on their farms, or participate in them in stores or other locations, to meet consumers at a time when farms are not in full production mode, Yescas said.
Consumers might have heard about raw milk cheese in the news recently, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration loosening rules on the testing requirements, he said, adding that those rules will continue to test for three strands of bacteria that are pathogenic to humans while suspending testing of others.
“This [event] comes at the perfect time for people to be aware,” Yescas said. “They already heard [about raw milk cheese] from articles online or articles in the press. They might think, ‘I should go try it.’ Now there’s 600 events around the world. They can find out what it’s all about.”
Fat in cheese pairs with astringent tea
For example, what are tea-cheese pairings all about? Yescas said the creamy, fatty consistency of many raw milk cheeses matches well with the astringent flavors of teas from regions like south Asia. “That [tea] makes an interesting pairing because it cleans your palate,” he said. “It’s a pairing of flavors that contrast.” Milder, green teas also work well with Rhine cheese like brie or camembert, he added.
As for honey-cheese pairings, Yescas suggests finding local honey that has taken on the floral aromas of the season and location, and pairing cheeses from the same time and place. For example, early spring honeys in the D.C. area draw flavor from the famous cherry blossom trees and pair well with milk from goats and sheep nearby having their first kids. “If we actually pay attention to what we’re eating, we’re more connected to the environment, the Earth, our surroundings,” he said.