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I’m Surrounded by Cheese Wrappers! (or, How to Find Quality Cheese)

raw cheese eating (2) (500x375)

I love cheese.

I’m no conoisseur by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, give me a fancy dancy, potentially expensive cheese, and I probably won’t like it.

I’m like a little kid when it comes to cheese though. I love the basics: a nice firm, mild cheddar, stringy mozzarella, anything melted and slightly browning on the edges…

Cheese is my go-to snack when I just want to grab something to put in my mouth (especially when I’m afraid one of the kiddos would catch me if I grabbed a chocolate chip instead!). On this week when we’re finding quality convenience real food, cheese is in my number one slot.

Once sliced, cheese is always ready to eat. It doesn’t take any washing, cooking, or utensils to serve. My kids always say, “Yes, please, cheese!”

Cheese is my ultimate convenience food.

(And my desk really is littered with cheese wrappers right now, but I swear, it’s just to reference them for this post…)

Quality Cheese Checklist

Since we go through a lot of it, I’ve been trying to source it more wholesomely lately. I used to just buy Spartan brand 24-ounce blocks when they went on sale, or really, any other cheese that wasn’t processed fake cheese.

Here’s a list, in order of importance, for what I’m looking for as I try to get better cheese taking up residence in my fridge:

  1. No hormones
  2. No antibiotics used
  3. Grassfed
  4. Organic
  5. Raw
  6. Small, local farmers are in there somewhere…

In other words, if I can find grassfed cheese that’s not organic, I’d still jump at that before cheese that’s just raw, maybe even organic, but not grassfed. It’s kind of like when we choose our raw milk, which is important to me more for being grassfed and organic than for being raw.

Raw Cheese that’s not Organic?

For a few years now, we’ve been buying 5-pound blocks of raw cheese from Brunkow out of Wisconsin. I felt really good about feeding my family high quality cheese, and the prices were hardly any more than Kraft or Meijer brand cheese in 8-ounce chunks. We were introduced to the cheese through our old raw milk farm and another real food friend, and I just sort of trusted their judgment.

Recently, I got on the phone with Brunkow and decided that it’s probably not worth the slight risk of raw cheese to purchase from them. Here’s what I learned:

  • they don’t own the cows
  • there are many (small) farmers
  • most likely on pasture in summer, on grain in winter (Wisconsin)
  • no hormones or rBGH
  • of course they’re probably on antibiotics (she said, almost too glibly)
  • not organic feed
  • (I asked about securing safety) – raw cheese has to be aged over 60 days (not reassured)

In other words, Brunkow cheese had nothing over Kraft cheese, most likely, other than not being from a huge corporation and being raw. The raw enzymes without the benefits of fully grassfed and organic dairy just aren’t worth a price upgrade for me, nor the fact that raw cheese carries some health risk.

The sad part? I have to admit that Brunkow’s mild cheddar is so. very. delicious. It’s just the perfect balance of firm vs. creamy, extremely mild in flavor, and the kind of cheese I could just eat and eat and eat. I’ll miss it.

A Cheese Upgrade

In my quest to upgrade my animal products, I’ve been trying some other cheeses over the past year:

Kerrygold

Pros: Kerrygold dairy products are at least nearly 100% grassfed, so I love that, and they’re fairly affordable at Costco.

Cons: They are imported from Ireland, so the carbon footprint leaves something to be desired, and the cheese is not organic or raw.

Price: a bit over $5/lb., purchased in a 2-pound block for $10.78

How it tastes: The “Dubliner” cheese is very firm and decently good, in my opinion, but almost too sharp for my daughter and not as creamy as some. I grab a brick here and there as a compromise, usually for shredding and cooking with. I was a little weirded out the first time I opened a package and saw this:

Kerrygold cheese (2) (500x375)

…but the nice taste tester lady from Costco told me they’re all like that, it’s not mold, and it’s safe to eat. (I cut it off and shredded and froze the rest of the block the first time!)

Kerrygold also has other styles of cheese that I haven’t tasted yet, but I took one for the team and opened a package of “Blarney Castle” just tonight for this post. It’s described as “smooth and mild Gouda style” and it delivered in a big way. I’d like it a bit more firm, but the smooth, creamy texture is just amazing, and it tastes lovely.

Grass Point Farms

Pros: I was tickled to find grassfed cheese at my local Meijer (in the deli self-serve section). I thought it might be too good to be really true, some sort of labeling “real-washing,” since there aren’t any regulations on the term “grassfed.” Once I visited the website, however, I became pretty convinced that the cheese is well-sourced and truly from pastured animals. Hooray! (check package)

Cons: While not technically organic, 100% grassfed dairy usually is, but you aren’t guaranteed. I wish I could get it in bulk!

Price: $12/pound, purchased at $5.99/8-ounce block

How it tastes: I bought a package of mild cheddar cheese, and we have enjoyed the flavor. It has a little tang to it that I recognize from other grassfed products, not the mass-produced sharp cheddar flavor, but it’s not as tangy as most raw cheese I’ve tried. I’m surprised there’s as much flavor as there was in mild cheddar and had to look at the package twice while typing. It passed muster with the 4-year-old, who would be the one to tell me if it was too sharp.

However, for that price, I’d rather have something that’s also organic if at all possible. You can find out if Grass Point Farms Cheese is available near you with their store locator, which was incredibly accurate in my opinion.

Farm Country Cheese

Pros: This cheese covers just about all the bases: it’s local to Michigan, 100% grassfed, hand-milked (a bonus), zero antibiotics or hormones, and they have both pasteurized and raw cheese available.

Cons: The raw cheese is harder to eat than the pasteurized.

Price: The best part is that it’s quite affordable, from $5-10/pound depending on where you buy it ($5/8-ounces at Farmer’s Markets or around $25/5-pound brick through the website)

How it tastes: The raw milk cheddar is honestly hit and miss. We’ve had some bricks that are delicious, just slightly tangier than our old friend Brunkow, but really tasty. We’ve had other bricks that ended up relegated to only being used in cooking, ironically for the “raw” part, because they were unpalatably sour.

Farm Country Cheese has some flavored cheeses that are fun to try – the bacon cheddar is a particular indulgence of mine that I don’t usually share with the family. Dill is our latest taste test, quite good and would be nice to serve to company with homemade crackers or fresh fruit, and the olive flavor was one I thought I’d love but was disappointed by the lack of flavor overall. The pasteurized cheddar has a consistent flavor without the tang of the raw and is quite good.

I currently have an order of a 5-pound block of both raw cheddar and medium cheddar coming my way, as I think I’ve settled on Farm Country as my default cheese, particularly since I can get it locally at many Farmer’s Markets and even my small town butcher. (See my list of local Grand Rapids real food resources page for more on what’s available at markets and farms around here.)

Real Milk Cheese

Pros: This cheese actually does check all the boxes (except local): It’s organic, grassfed, and raw, and they ship anywhere in the country. The owners are clearly committed to sustainability and animal welfare. I love this line from the website: raw cheese pepperjack (3) (500x375)

“All good milk products start with healthy soils…We are proud to say that our cows are fully pastured, 100% grass fed.”

If you’ve never read about the benefits of raw milk cheese, you’ll want to check them out HERE.

Cons: Any raw cheese has a certain tang to it.

Price: $13/pound when purchased in 8-ounce blocks; $10.50/pound as a 5-pound block

How it tastes: If you need a mild cheese like our family does, you’ll find the colby to be very easy on the tongue and creamy. It is quite a soft cheese. The sharp cheddar we tasted was too much for the kids, but I enjoyed it. It’s not a cheese I could eat as easily as the Brunkow, however. The pepperjack (at right) is creamy and quite spicy, not for the weak of heart. It’s a good snacking cheese, but if you’re used to store cheeses, you’ll need to get used to raw cheese.

Organic Valley & Others

I never tried this brand, even though it’s probably the most widely available across the country. I think I have this “big organic conglomerate” view of Organic Valley in my head, as unfair as that probably is. I assumed their cheese wasn’t grassfed, when it very well could be. Anyone have any notes on Organic Valley?

UPDATE: Many readers weight in positively on Organic Valley, and they do largely pasture their animals, although the “raw” cheese sold in retail stores also apparently isn’t quite raw.

We also have a local cheesemaker here in Grand Rapids, Grassfields Cheese, which is definitely 100% organic and grassfed, but I’ve been hit and miss with their raw cheeses as well. I loved the sample I had at the farm, then when I bought a few wedges to take home, I could barely finish them because they were so tangy. My poor undeveloped palate!

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention the obvious – making your own! If you have access to decently priced raw milk, or better yet, your own backyard cow, Wardeh and GNOWFGLINS will show you how to make just about any cheese you can imagine, through helpful video tutorials and printable PDFs to walk you through then entire process. Check out the Cultured Dairy & Cheesemaking class HERE.

I sure could go for a slice of cheese about now…anyone want to wander through the kitchen with me?

Where do you find quality cheese? What’s most important to you about the source?

Disclosure: I did receive samples from Real Milk Cheese and Kerrygold, but you can’t buy my opinion! See my full disclosure statement here.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

46 thoughts on “I’m Surrounded by Cheese Wrappers! (or, How to Find Quality Cheese)”

  1. I am just a rookie to all of you. I just would like to know where I can find a cheese that comes from a cow that is grass-fed, no GMO, no antibiotics and hormone free. I live in South Texas and I don’t mind ordering on line to get what I want.

    1. Hi Susan!
      Organic Valley is a pretty big national brand if you can find a health food store near you (although they’re in some regular stores too). Tropical Traditions has good cheese too http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/TTbutter (that’s to butter, but follow links to cheese) Other places in this post also ship. Hope that helps!

  2. This is our last real food/healthier food switchout we are in need of! Most of the cheese I prefer and can’t find an acceptable replacement for is good mozzarela (mostly for pizzas). Suggestions?

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Maybe try Costco? They often have at least “better” brands, I’ve noticed…

  3. This is a wonderful post. I’m glad I found this because I love cheese so much but I’ve really narrowed down what cheeses I will actually eat. The only brands I currently can find the easiest and trust are Kerrygold and organic valley. There is always cheeses at whole foods but I’m only 16 and have t gotten my license just yet and it is a little far from me. So I appreciate you listing some good brands, I’ll have to search for those brands you mentioned. But from what I’ve read in some places is that any imported cheese is hormone and antibiotic free, which I’m skeptical about but it could be legitimate. What’s your thought on that? And what do you think about ile de France Brie? It’s supposedly imported but I’m still hesitant with the whole corporate part of ile de France. I’m just not sure they are a trustworthy company. I’m such a picky person when it comes to cheese it’s annoying sometimes. Thanks again for this post, very informative.

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Joshua,
      I guess I’m really not sure what the answer to your question is – the best way to source the cheese is to call or email the company and ask. Not all “big” companies are corrupt! 😉 Katie

  4. It’s extremely hard to find truly raw cheese. You won’t find it in a grocery store, but only from a very small co-op or farmer. Most commercial producers that say their cheese is “raw” heat their cheese to at least 160 degrees, and probably higher — but it needs to be under 118 degrees for all the enzymes to survive. Like making yogurt, this provides them with a more consistent product because they know the culture they add is dominant over whatever wild cultures are already present. They are then required to age it 60 days in order for the cheese cultures to eradicate any “bad” bacteria that might be in the milk. To be fair, here in Wis., the state agency in charge of cheese licensing, makes it very difficult to do anything out of the norm. The only thing that keeps some of these artisans in the business is their passion for cheesemaking. With all that said, I have made delicious cheddar from local raw milk, and I have tried 105 degree cheddar from a nearby state. I only liked my own cheese. The truly raw cheese I’ve had was too funky for me… and I’m a cheese lover from dairy farmers on both sides!

    My latest tries are Trader Joe’s New Zealand Grass Fed Sharp Cheddar (aged 6-12 mos.) for $5.50/lb. NZ has a very pristine environment apparently, so I am not as worried it is not OG. Yum! My kids don’t care for the sharpness though. And, just today I got some Rumiano (CA) org. mild cheddar cheese through my UNFI buying club. It’s about $7.50/lb. Non-GMO, humane and 0 g. of lactose per serving. Kids like it…so far! I’ve also bought mild cheddar in 5 lb. blocks of Organic Creamery $7.50/lb) and 2 lb. blocks of Organic Valley ($8/lb.), both through my buying club. You might find them behind a deli counter. The kids liked them for a while, and they were consistently good IMO.

  5. I really appreciate this topic. I have a strictly gluten-free household member with other allergies that eats a lot of cheese. We have tried raw here and there and haven’t liked it that much (bland, but now I’m thinking it was just the particular cheeses, not that it was raw). There doesn’t seem to be many choices in raw cheese where I live, but I will try again. The Tillamook compromise could be a good idea and I can find that, thanks for the tip. I use Trader Joes cheeses fairly often that are hormone free and affordable.

  6. I have really enjoyed this series. Something that has definitely been on my mind recently.
    My son loves milk, cheese and yogurt. But we think this may be contributing to what my husband calls “80 year old man gas”. It isn’t bothering him in any other ways that we can see, but of course I don’t know what it is doing long term. We’ve started him on almond milk, but that has been hit and miss.
    I am wanting to start doing raw, hoping that makes a difference. We live in so cal and I have yet to find direct sources in my area:(
    And of course convincing my husband to spend the money is a feat in itself. Thought I am excited about the Amish cheese that gets mailed!!!

  7. i just want to add that i encourage everyone to re-read the section in nourishing traditions on raw dairy and also go to the weston a price foundation website to read the journal articles they post, and you will again realize why raw is extremely important.
    not just for the enzymes, but for the fat soluble vitamins and co-factors which have so many roles affecting digestibiltiy and proper nutrient assimilation, the protein structure which is mangled and rendered useless through pastuerization, and all the numerous other magical and mysterious properties that make raw, pastured dairy from heritage breeds one of nature’s most perfect, healing foods. it is so nutritious, and the high quality fat soluble vitamins in it that you will only find in grass fed heritage breed dairy also makes the other food you eat easier to digest and the nutrients more fully assimilated.
    i have to add that at the regional WAPF conference in STL this may, sally fallon-morrel said that “Raw. Grass-fed, Jersey type Cheese is practically a perfect food and you could live off it if you had to!”
    this is why such high quality cheese is our go-to snack, meal maker, etc. and we eat 10 lbs a month!! when you consider the health benefits, it is a bargain 🙂

  8. i have to agree with Deb that raw is very important to us, over being certified organic. but it is equally important for our cheese to be Grass Fed and Jersey or a heritage breed.
    I have to say Katie, I am a little surprised to read you veering away from such a core WAPF principle as raw dairy products. I agree with you that being organic at least in practice (if not certified) is extremely important, but yes we want non-sprayed non-GMO PASTURE fed not just a swap for organic corn and soy. but EQUALLY important to me is that is is RAW. as a member of WAPF (this is my first year!) but a follower of nourishing traditions for 7 years, i have a renewed vigor for selecting very high quality dairy products and it pretty much has to be: 1) pastured 2) ‘organic’ 3) heritage breed and 4) raw
    i know it’s like the list keeps getting longer and one more thing to juggle just about makes you want to throw your hands up! really! but i just take it in baby steps, and a huge blessing has been finding a local source of raw, pastured, jersey cheese right here in MO. it is called homestead creamery and it is a mennonite business that does it all, and it is world class award winning cheese. it is $7- $8/lb for the cheese aged under a year and $10-$11/lb for the very aged cheddars. we buy the lesser aged cheese and they are consistently delicious. at first it seemed a bit much for our budget (i was used to kerrygold or tillamook at $5/lb) but we prayed about it and we knew it was the best decision for our health and to support a local family business. we can eat 10 lbs a month and our family of 4 lives right around the so-called poverty level so i trust me i know what it is like to fret over every aspect of the food budget. but it is the right thing to do, and God blesses us greatly. keep in mind when you are choosing even a brand like tillamook, OV, kerrygold, that they do “cut corners” especially as far as a WAP diet is concerned, that is why their cheese is cheaper than a small family operation that offers grass fed, raw, heritage breed dairy products. . it is certainly better than cheapo supermarket cheese. we all have to make these choices, and take the baby steps towards the best ones. it is a process 🙂

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Lizi,
      I’m so happy to have the Farm Country Cheese as a local-ish option here in Michigan.

      We all have to prioritize what feels right, in a way, since there’s soooo much conflicting information on food and nutrition. For me, grassfed is so important. I never said certified organic though, just organic.

      I also have never really purported to be a follower of Nourishing Traditions or WAPF, although I agree with many of their principles. There are a number of points on which I’ve challenged Sally Fallon-Morell and crew, and although I don’t think raw is bad, it’s less important to me than grassfed, especially when I read in the comments above how the term “raw” can be misused.

      I also have yet to find a raw cheese (other than Brunkow, which just doesn’t have growing practices that make me comfortable) that the whole family loves consistently, so “likability” is part of it – if no one eats the cheese, that’s no good either. My “snack” options are limited enough already!

      Sooo…I don’t think I’m veering, partly because I’ve never gotten into bed with WAPF in the first place, partly because I do appreciate the raw-ness, just not as the most important part.

      🙂 Katie

  9. Since January we’ve been getting Brunkow. Honestly, raw is more important to me than organic, although obviously the antibiotics and lack of being grass-fed are concerns. I haven’t seen Kerrygold at my local Costco, but I’m wondering if I could get them to carry it? Price is our biggest issue right now with a tight grocery budget, and $5/lb is my price point for cheese (we eat a lot of cheese!).

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Deb,
      Absolutely, everyone has to go with their gut and find the balance between budget and possible options (and that Brunkow cheese really is good!). 😉

      I wonder – one question I didn’t even know to ask until I read some comments above on Organic Valley is this: to what temperature IS the cheese heated? If it’s over 116F, it’s not truly raw and enzymes will have been killed. If I were you, before paying a price premium for Brunkow, I’d call their customer service and ask that. Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  10. Regarding antibiotics in milk used to make cheese: It’s not possible!

    If the milk contains antibiotics then they would kill the bacteria used to set the curds.

    Organic Valley is a big name but it is a co-op and owned by dairy farmers unlike Horizon. OV also bottles and labels organic dairy for the Hyvee grocery store based in Iowa. The small chain does have stores in several midwestern states.

    I don’t own OV, but I did check them out when my favorite farmer’s goats were dried off for the season and I needed a secondary source of milk.

  11. I’m wondering if anyone can weigh in on the idea that people with dairy allergies can generally tolerate raw milk/cheese? This would make raw cheese worth it to me knowing it’s not triggering allergies, even if it’s not grassfed/organic? That’s been my reasoning thus far, but as always, I love how you challenge us to think about our food! I’ve been buying Landmark raw mild cheddar from Azure, and Brunkow before that.

    1. Andrea, are you talking about lactose (or other) intolerance or anaphylactic allergic reactions? If there is true allergy, stay away from dairy, it just isn’t worth it! BUT if you have an intolerance, raw milk products might work and the only way to find out is to try it.

      Several years ago, I had a number of food intolerances and any dairy made me drop-where-you-are tired. But after avoiding it for several months, I discovered I was fine with raw cheese but not milk, raw or pasteurized. With more time, raw milk or cultured milk (yogurt and kefir) could be tolerated well. And as even more time as passed, I’ve realized all my food intolerances have disappeared.

      My sister was diagnosed lactose intolerant. After avoiding all milk products for a year or two, she has discovered she can have raw milk cheese without a problem. Any pasteurized milk requires a lactaid or similar enzyme.

      Hope you are able to figure out what helps your body……

      1. I have to agree with Kathleen. I can’t provide any real detail, but I was lactose intolerant as an infant and was fed carrot juice as the only alternative in the 1950’s. When I was between two and three years old, my father’s employer made illegal raw milk available and we used that for a couple of years. I have been told that I was able to consume it without problem, although the store milk gave me rather severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

        I have not had a drink of just milk, raw or pasturized, since I was about eight, because I developed an aversion to the store milk we were using again, although a milkshake or chocolate milk does not cause a problem. I consume some dairy every day and discovered yogurt about twenty years ago.

    2. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Andrea,
      I sure love the comments below! One reason some people who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk do okay with raw is that raw milk has many enzymes, including lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. In other words, the milk comes with what you need to digest the milk. Cool, right?

      the other commenters are right, though – you have to figure out what your body is reacting to and if raw cheese does it or not…
      Good luck!
      🙂 Katie

  12. Here is a link to Organic Valley that explains their raw cheese labeling and processing. http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/cheese/cheddar/raw-mild-8-oz/ By law, their products have to be labeled as raw, but they do have some enzyme loss.

    We use their cheese, butter, and cream. OV say those products are from grassfed cows, and I know that the color and flavor of their butter is similar to local grassfed products we’ve been able to find. Their cream is the best tasting cream I’ve ever had.

    1. To state that they have to label it as raw is misleading. More accurately they choose to heat the milk until just below true pasteurization temp so they can call it raw. It is not raw in fact the true definition of raw cheese is that it is not heated above the temperature that it is when it comes out of the cow-about 104 degrees. Trader Joe’s raw cheddar is the same. They heat that milk to 155. Full pasteurization is at 161. Very deceitful in my opinion.

      1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

        Virginia & Kelly,
        Oooo, without doing any research, that does sound a little misleading. 155 definitely kills enzymes, in fact 116 does! Interesting…
        🙂 Katie

  13. We also have to add Jersey or another “Brown Cow” breed into the checklist due to my daughters allergies. She gets horrible stomache aches from regular dairy, but can tolerate the “brown cows”. I’m told it’s because of an altered protien gene. In Europe it’s labled A-2 milk. The cheese we’ve been buying from Azure Standard is organic, raw and from a small farm in Montana. I think it’s grass fed, but I should check into that more closely. It is sooo good!

    Here’s the link: http://www.lifelinefarm.com/index.php

    1. thanks for bringing that up, christina! i totally agree that heritage breeds “brown cows” like jersey or guernsey, are a super important to my family.
      unfortunately, unless the dairy product is labeled that way, you can guarantee it is a holstein (the black and white cows).
      not only do the heritage breeds produce more butterfat and are usually exclusively grass fed (grain tears up their stomachs); but to put it in sally fallon’s words: modern holsteins are a freak of nature. they have been bred to have over active pituitary glands to produce 2 -3 times more milk, and those naturally occuring growth hormones are in the milk- even w/o being given rBst! (so avoiding synthetic hormones doesn’t do that much good if you’re getting holstein milk) Also these poor cows constantly have engorged udders, which means more pus in you milk- BLEH! its true that the USA has the highest acceptable levels of pus in the milk over other countries in N america and europe.
      and not to mention the A1 A2 debate, which i hly recommend researching. the connection between modern holstein milk and allergies/auto-immune disorders is shocking.

      1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

        Lizi and Christina,
        Wow, what a tricky factor to tie in, but I can say I enjoyed the milk from Jersey/Guernseys more than the B&W cow milk we get now. I think my farmer mentioned she was testing the cows to keep the A…the good one…and get rid of the others (they’re coming down from being a conventional dairy – not farming method, but selling method – to raw milk shares so cutting the herd from 50 to 10-20). Crazy…
        🙂 Katie

    2. Lifeline is grass-fed, and their herd is Brown Swiss, I believe. They’re just a few miles down the road from where we are right now. Very nice people, too. You can watch them make cheese, too, if you happen to show up when they are doing so.

  14. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    Interesting. My kids prefer it sharp. The baby will throw mozzarella on the floor in favor of sharp cheddar. Might have to check into these.

  15. We love a REALLY sharp aged cheddar, and none of the raw or organic cheese we’ve tried measure up–we think they are being rushed to market and not properly aged. We eat quite a bit of cheese, different varieties, with our everyday standby being Tillamook’s sharp cheddar. Until I find a good, sharp, raw and/or organic cheddar, or get into a situation where I can make my own (not in CA, with raw milk at $16/gallon, so not for at least a few years), I guess we’ll stick to Costco. All the dairy products there are at least no hormones, and many are pastured–although you might have to find out through reading the member magazine, rather than checking labels. They have had some very nice grassfed leg of lamb roasts lately, too.

    1. Kind of updating my own comment: We’ve since moved to MT, and have Lifeline Dairy just a few miles away. Azure Standard sells their products, and they are quite good. They’re pastured organic and vat pasteurized. They have a cute little cheese factory (much smaller than the one I used to work at as a teenager in WI), and, locally, they sell butter and milk, as well. (And grass-fed meats, too). I just found out the other day that I can get butter ends and pieces from them (as good as Kerrygold, at least!) for less than Costco charges for their regular organic butter. That made my day! (I’ve already been buying cheese ends and pieces from them)

      1. Lifeline does have raw cheeses. Their milk is vat-pasteurized, as MT does not allow raw milk sales…yet. Keeping my fingers crossed for a raw milk bill in the legislature right now!

  16. Wow! I am surprised you listed my local cheese house! I’m so lucky to live right down the road from Farm Country Cheese House. Our favorite place to stop for the wonderful free samples of their yummy flavored cheeses. I should have stock in the place!

  17. We love the Farm Country Cheese; the Amish farmer who we have a milk share with sells it at our Farmer’s Market up here. I agree with you on the raw cheddar, too, some are great and some are a bit too strong for my preference and end up getting baked of made into sauces.

  18. We use Tillamook. We’re in Washington and only a couple hours from the factory. It’s not the best but for our budget it’s a great compromise!!! Plus, it’s sooooo delicious 🙂

    Here’s a review:
    http://nwfarmreview.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/tillamook/

    The majority of the farmers put the cows to pasture, which is nice to know and I love their support of smaller scale farms. It’s evident when driving through their small town just how important Tillamook dairy products are to their community.

    1. We use Tillamook too! It’s a good compromise between price and quality. I love that it’s ‘local’ (I’m in the Portland area) so that I’m not only getting a good product I’m supporting my state agriculture! And it’s the best tasting too (in my humble opinion!)

      1. Therese Belleville

        Hi,
        We also used to buy all Tillamook’s products (cheeses, yogurt and ice cream) as we also live in Washington state. Tillamook can not assure the public that the feed for their dairy cattle is not GMO free. Tillamook also uses corn syrup in their ice cream. We now use Rumaino Family cheese which is certified GMO free and only buy organic ice cream or I make it myself with all GMO free products. Tillamook like other dairies is Rbhg free but this is not an assurance of GMO free in their dairy products. Source: https://ahandcraftedlifeblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/tillamook-creamery-responds-to-questions-about-gmos/

  19. Have you ever tried this one ?http://www.heinis.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=356

    I loved Heini’s when I was a kid in Ohio, and just discovered I can get it at a local bulk food store where I am now in Colorado. I have never tried their raw cheese, but the price seems good.

  20. I recently discovered very expensive, but grassfed, organic cheese is available here. Cheese made from raw milk is also available, so a combination is highly likely. Interestingly, though, raw milk is absolutely illegal, throughout the whole country. Apparently, so are cow shares, although I know they exist in some places, until the government shuts them down like they did recently just north of you.

    I currently buy a 2.27 kilo (love metric packaging, NOT), roughly 5 pound block at the regular grocery for, ready?, $25.98. Not organic, not grassfed, just ordinary cheddar. I’ve been thinking like Kris lately and looking at homemade cheese presses and wine fridges and pricing the grassfed, organic, unhomogenized, but pasturized milk that sometimes gets marked down at the local health food store. It even comes in glass bottles. Now I need to find out if milk can be frozen and stockpiled and still make decent cheese, a few other details. Are you considering going there yet?

    Maybe I will have to get backyard pet hens, and one of those big, horned, “dogs” called Rover, Fido, or Spot to watch over them……

    You have such a fun blog, always stirring up the rebel in me.

    1. This may be a bit late, but milk can definitely be frozen! I do it all the time. I just put a gallon in a sink of warm water at night, and in the morning it’s thawed out! This even works for raw milk!

  21. I am not an expert at making cheese…but I’m learning about it to try (someday)…but it seems that nearly every recipe talks about heating the milk before adding the culture/rennet. It isn’t made from completely raw milk, like butter and kefir can be.

    That said, we love Organic Valley. It is one of the few organic cheeses we can easily source in north TX. Their website says: “The family farmers of Organic Valley are committed to pasturing as they continue to lead the organic dairy industry” So the cows get grass, mostly grass, and aren’t CAFO. That’s worth it to me.

    Katie, I don’t see you mentioning another GREAT source: Local Amish farms. This will take some networking, research, and possibly driving, but we used to get raw, 100% pastured, no antibiotics/hormones ever milk from an Amish farmer. DELISH!

    1. I am a newbie in the cheesemaking, but I have found that most hard cheeses need to be only heated to 80 – 90 degrees to separate the curds from the whey. I even made cream cheese last week that was just set out on the counter and brought to room temp! Classic clabbered milk is just that – a container of milk left on the counter to separate into curds and whey, and then the whey is drained.

    2. To Kathleen: Here is one recipe for raw cheese only heated to 86 degrees (probably lower than the temperature it was in the cow…) http://gnowfglins.com/2010/09/22/homemade-raw-cheddar-cheese/# and heres another http://fiascofarm.com/dairy/feta.html

      Anyways, I LOVE cheese (my man, not so much, what a weirdo), and I usually get Kerrygold, although I’ve been looking into getting some raw cheese from an online source, or making my own. Raw goat milk is less expensive than the highest quality store-bought milk (non-homoginized, grassfed, vat pasteurized) and half the price of the raw cow milk I get from a local farm.

      I’m also wondering about the tang thing you mentioned. Kerrygold Dubliner happens to be the only cheese I’ll enjoy eating plain (other than good quality, fresh mozzarella), because of the unique tang it has, almost like yogurt. Is it similar to that?

  22. We get most of our cheese from Grassfields – where we also have a raw milk share. I have found that making cheese is not terribly hard, either (fresh ones that is). If I am in the kitchen anyway, I can make cheese while doing other things. I love my husband’s homemade mozzarella and making paneer and queso fresco is very easy! I want to get a wine fridge so I can start making hard cheese and ageing them.

    Good information on other options for cheese!

    1. I have had Grassfields cheese as well. They sell at the farm (or off their website), as well as at Horrocks. It is worth the trip to the farm to sample their varieties. Delicious!

  23. I don’t know about their cheese, but they sell a grassfed milk that’s non-homogenized here in Boulder. They also have a pastured butter that was quite good, and their heavy cream was simply pasteurized, instead of ultra-pasteurized, so we made creme fraiche with it. We’re just getting into the non-conventionally processed foods, so those are my discoveries so far.

    Thanks for all the info on the cheese! This was really helpful. I especially appreciate how you’re informative without being dogmatic.

  24. Organic valley, and many other places, lie about being ”raw.” They thermalize their cheese, raising it to one degree below pasteurized, so it looses all the raw cheese benefits.

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