BY JULIA ROGERS, Cheese Culture (www.cheeseculture.ca)


As our customers peruse the cheese counter, it seems that the most popular question these days is in relation to the term “raw milk”. So for this month’s Live to Eat, we decided to pull in the expertise of Cheese Specialist Julia Rogers.  Julia operates Cheese Culture, which provides classes, events and services related to cheese. We have had the pleasure of hosting Julia at The Healthy Butcher for several of our cheese classes and her depth of knowledge on cheese and eloquent presentation is truly a delight.  For more information on Cheese Culture, visit their website or contact Julia directly at: cheeseculture@hotmail.com


Without further ado, the raw facts.



continued below



New classes planned for September


A perfect gift for the foodie. 

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September 5 - Intro to Butchering 102 - A Whole Pig
September 12 - Making Great Sausages

The Healthy Butcher's cured sausages



At last, the first batch is ready to sample.

Pepperoni, Genoa Salami, Sopressata, Coppa, and Hunter's Loop - all five are made in house with our Certified Organic meat. Each sausage contains a bacteria culture to kick start the fermentation, and of course, minimal nitrate but enough to keep us safe from harm. These items were a long time in the making. Like the best part of waiting for a fine wine... it's time to drink!



New! Our housemade finishing butter - perfect for the leaner round steaks. Inspired by Fergus Henderson and his staff at his English Restaurant, St. John's; our own version is made by roasting beef marrow, pressing out the impurities and then emulsifying the pure marrow with Certified Organic Butter. St. John's Butter has a rounded flavour with a subtle meaty flavour to enrich the texture and flavour of any steak you are eating.  Ask about it in the store.





BY JULIA ROGERS, Cheese Culture


Cheese Culture Logo

The phrase, “raw milk cheese”, typically generates excitement and strong opinions
around the cheese counter. Unfortunately, there is plenty of confusion fuelling the
conversation, and a lack of clarity regarding even basic definitions. This is no surprise, as
cheese makers, importers, distributors and retailers describe and label cheese
inconsistently from place to place, and sometimes mislead the cheese loving public. At
the risk of adding to the perplexity of it all, here is a primer on the words in use and what
they likely mean.


After collection from the dairy animal, and before cheese making begins, there is a range
of heat treatment processes milk can undergo.

  1. The milk can go directly to the cheese vat, or be chilled then re-heated to no more
    than 40 degrees C (its “straight-from-the-source” temperature) before cheese
    making begins. By law in the European Union, and by cheese maker agreement in
    Québec, this milk is defined as “raw” (lait cru).

  2. The milk can be heated to 72 to 74 degrees C for 8 to 12 seconds, or heated to 62
    to 65 degrees C for 30 minutes, then chilled before re-heating at the start of
    cheese making. In all dairy jurisdictions, milk treated this way is called

  3. The milk can be heated to 60 to 65 degrees C for 15 to 30 seconds then chilled
    before re-heating at the start of cheese making. Most accurately, this milk is
    called “thermalized” (lait thermisé). It can also be called “unpasteurized”
    although that is a much broader term as it also applies to raw milk. Sometimes
    marketing materials refer to thermalized milk cheeses as “gently pasteurized”, but
    this is incorrect, as milk either is or is not pasteurized, and thermalized milk is not


Even if cheese consumers take the time to understand the differences between various
heat treatments, they’ll still be confused about what they’re eating as not all cheese
producing regions agree on terminology for heat treatment of milk apart from
“pasteurization”. Here are a few examples of the consequences:

  • Raw milk on the ingredient list of Baluchon (Québec) means milk unheated
    beyond 40 degrees C, but raw milk on the ingredient list of Jensen cheddar
    (Ontario) means something different, as in Ontario “raw milk” implies only “not
    pasteurized”. Jensen cheddar is in fact made of thermalized milk.

  • Riopelle, a thermalized milk cheese from Québec, is shipped out-of-province in
    packing boxes that say non-pasteurisé – technically accurate. Well-meaning
    Toronto cheese vendors often translate this to “raw milk” – something Riopelle
    would make no claim to in Québec.

  • Classic French cheeses including Chabichou, Valencay and Camembert are
    traditionally made of raw milk and eaten before they reach 60 days of age (the
    time at which raw milk cheeses become legal for retail sale in Canada).
    Mysteriously, they appear in Toronto shops when only a few weeks old. Their
    boxes and paper labels may say nothing about milk treatment, or may proclaim
    lait cru, while the distributor’s label (stuck on the bottom or on the shipping
    package) reads lait thermisé. What’s going on? Apparently French industrial-scale
    cheese makers maintain a separate production line for thermalized versions of
    young cheeses that would be illegal in North America if made of raw milk. In
    some cases, they do not create distinctive labels and boxes to reflect this, but rely
    on the importer/distributor to provide labeling appropriate for the importer

  • Finally, there are still many cheeses, particularly from Italy, Spain and Portugal that arrive at the fromagerie with a single ingredient label that reads: milk, rennet,
    salt. It’s often up to the distributor or retailer to guess what heat treatment the
    milk has sustained.


Toronto cheese shops abound with tasty, well-crafted cheeses made from raw,
thermalized and pasteurized milk. There are artisan and farmstead producers using pasteurized milk, and large-scale industrial producers using raw milk. In rare cases when
gastrointestinal illness has been linked to cheese consumption, raw, thermalized and
pasteurized milk cheeses are equally likely to have been identified as the culprit.

Despite this, consumers deserve clarity on the label. Those who prefer traditional raw
milk cheese will not be pleased to learn they have been consuming products whose milk
has been thermalized to the extent that 95% of its micro-flora has been destroyed.
Equally important, raw milk cheese makers deserve recognition that their products are
distinct from those made with thermalized milk.


The hot, humid summer deals a blow to most appetites. Cheese becomes a “just a tiny
bite” treat during these salad days. This is the season to savour small morsels of fullflavoured fromage or modest portions of fresh cheese with a generous side of local fruits
and vegetables.

Jensen Extra-Old Cheddar: This three-year-old thermalized cow’s milk cheddar from a
family-owned Ontario heirloom company is our house cheese when school’s out and
snacking kids are under foot. Fragrant of citrus and leather, the creamy smooth paste
tastes of orange zest and browned butter. Melt thickly on sunflower rye, and cover with
fresh sliced tomatoes, salt, pepper and fresh oregano.

Toscano:  This solid, rich cheese is created from transitional organic pasteurized sheep milk provided by South Western Ontario Mennonite shepherds. Cheese maker Ruth Klahsen of Monforte Dairy delivers classic aged sheep cheese flavours of citrus, lanolin and salty caramel. Toscano is wonderful with fresh fava beans or grilled asparagus, olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Ewenity Feta: An Ontario version of Greece’s most famous cheese, this pasteurized
100% sheep milk offering from Ewenity Dairy – North America’s second largest sheep
dairy co-op – is rich and flavourful, not simply salty. Cube into a fresh fig, cucumber and
mint salad dressed with seasoned rice-wine vinegar.

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