Monday, April 30, 2012

Bill Moskos in Japan

Bill Moskos
You've got to admire those intrepid adventurers who decide to make cheese in a foreign country!

It can be a daunting effort to get up your courage to make it here in our own country.  But, when you're in a place where cheese isn't exactly revered, it's even more amazing.

Bill Moskos is from the Ottawa Valley, Canada originally, but he's been living in Nara, Japan for the last 10 years.  He teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) by day and he plays in a rock band by night.

We first heard from him when he was placing an order and he mentioned that he had made Mozzarella (with our kit),

As for the mozzarella experiment .... After twice turning out some kind of mutated version of feta that wouldn't melt if you threw it into an active volcano, the third try was the charm.  I'm a believer! 

How could we resist asking him for an interview?  (During the course of that interview, we learned that Bill's triumph over Mozzarella was due in large part to the help he received from Kaoru Mori.  Bill wrote, Not to stereotype, but it's always good having a lady there to make sure you're paying attention to the temperatures.

How did you end up living in Japan?

Actually, a friend from my hometown in the Ottawa Valley was living here before me and he kept trying to get me to come over here and check the place out.

At that time I was working at Boeing Airplane in my hometown and we were doing Japanese business improvement workshops called kaizen.

I was a bit interested in that, but mostly I wanted to study the Japanese language and have a working holiday.

That was around the end of August, 2001. So I came and took it a year at a time and I'm still here.

Still get back home every year or so to get my head straightened out but things are ok here for the most part...  I had a wasabi flavored cacciocavallo recently. Not bad!

What's the cheese situation there?

I'm the only one I've seen doing it on a hobby scale. I'm doing my part to get people into it more. Some people think it's strange to make your own food but there's a bit of a renaissance going on with yogurt making and such.

I've been making my own sausages, butter, chocolate truffles and ice cream here for a while now and the cheese thing is just the next chapter.  It's around double the price to buy it here compared to back in Canada, but I still buy it every week.

Photo taken near Bill's home

Do you have a full kitchen?

Due to space issues here, an average kitchen setup is pretty small.  Picture two gas burners, a small broiler underneath with enough space to cook say four decent size burgers and a microwave/ convection range.

And I'm usually using a 1 gallon/4 liter stainless steel pot so my batches are small.  I'm currently working on a deal with a friend to use his restobar* space before it opens so this spring I can up the production level!

Don't have a spot for aging  so for now I'm sticking to soft, fresh type cheese. A small second fridge is something I'm thinking about.

*A restobar/ restaubar is kind of a cross between a restaurant and a bar. For the sake of avoiding confusion you could just pen it down as a bar. It's a place where you could just go to drink and have a snack or you could  also eat dinner there. That word might be Japlish come to think of it.

How do you make your butter?

Making the butter is pretty simple. I take some heavy cream, let it sit in a jar at room temperature for a while, ( 2-3 hrs ) then screw the lid on tight and start shaking the jar.

It gets thicker like a whipped cream and then you shake it more and then the fat and the liquid ( buttermilk ) separate.

Drain the buttermilk, shake it a bit more, then you can drain it in a cheesecloth/ strainer.

Then, just mix in some salt, pepper or herbs and there you go.

Fresh butter with a bit of Himalayan pink rock salt.

Pretty good on a croissant!  I just usually store it in a small ramekin and wrap some Saran wrap over it. Can't tell you the shelf life because I eat it too damn quickly!

Street scene
The reason I started doing this was,

1. It's cheaper. At import grocery stores I used to see a tiny half stick size package of homemade butter from France and it cost something like $6.00 usd. Talk about a ripoff!

I bought it once at half price and remembered it tasted like some butter we made in the 4th grade for some kind of heritage cooking day.

2. The other reason was that I can control the amount of salt and also put other herbs in it.

Also the leftover buttermilk ( which they don't sell here- cultured or the fresh stuff ) was good for marinating shrimp or scallops. Then I'd just roll them in panko breadcrumbs and pepper and fry them in a pan.

What else have you been making?

I'd made the ricotta before using milk and lemon juice a couple of times and then I decided to try the 30 minute mozzarella. The first time I made it though it looked pretty rough!  Came out like a milk rock!

I had to do a bit of looking around but there are a few brands of milk available here that aren't ultra pasteurized:

This is Seijo ishi brand milk from Hokkaido. It's pasteurized at 65C (149F) for 30 minutes. This made decent mozzarella.

This is Swiss brown from a dairy in Shimane. Just got it a couple of days ago and have yet to use it. It's heated at 72C (162F) for only 15 seconds and is non-homogenized. I'm gonna make a small batch of something with this and see how it is.

Bill's neighborhood
What are your cheese making goals?

For this year I'd like to learn how to consistently make 2-3 kinds of cheese really well.

Then do some workshops and spread the fever a bit!

Want to get a spare fridge so I can try some aged recipes too!

I've done some ESL (English as a second language) cooking workshops before and they've gone over well!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Washington County Cheese Tour

This year's event will be the biggest "drive yourself" cheese tour in the U.S.!

What could be better than spending a fall weekend in upstate New York, sampling great cheese and touring the farms where it's made?  You can take your time (it's a self-guided tour), and you have two full days, September 8 & 9th, to visit farms where some of the best cheese in the country is being made.  (See  

All the farms are located where NY, MA and VT converge - one hour's drive north of Albany.  At every stop, you will be able to taste the cheese and buy it, tour the facilities and, in some cases, view cheese making demonstrations, as well.

Participating farms include: 3-Corner Field Farm (Shushan, NY), Argyle Cheese Farmer (Argyle, NY), Consider Bardwell Farm (West Pawlet, VT), Longview Farm (Argyle, NY), Sweet Spring Farm (Argyle, NY) and Sugarloaf Farm (Fort Ann, NY). The tour is organized by the Washington County Cheese Makers.

This year will be the 6th time these farms have opened to the public and it just gets better every year.

And, did we mention that it's free?  Before you start, you will be given a special cheese lover's passport and map for your adventure (bike touring maps are available, as well.)  You may check off farms on your passport as you visit them and this gives you a chance to win some cheese at the end of your visit.  

There is still time to become a sponsor of the event.  (We love the names of the sponsorship levels- The Big Cheese, The Big Wheel, The Big Wedge and The Big Slice.)  They do limit the number of sponsors in order to maximize visibility.  For more information, contact the tour coordinator, Renata Pilato at 518-854-9901 or

Scenes from the 2011 tour...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The American Cheese Society Defends Raw Milk Cheese

French Camembert made with raw milk
The ACS Responds to Inaccuracies from the CDC  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

We've posted many articles in the last three years (since we started this blog) about the raw vs pasteurized debate in this country and our concerns about it.

It is the nature of our business to support small farmers and artisan cheese makers and we have seen them bravely fight an uphill battle against unfair government regulations.

The issue we're discussing in this article is raw milk cheese. All over the world and for over a thousand years, raw milk cheeses have been consumed successfully.  Who hasn't enjoyed the cheeses of France and Italy while on vacation there?  But, here, in the US, raw milk cheese may only be sold after it has been aged for 60 days or more.
Fresh Sicilian sheep's milk cheese

The American Cheese Society officially supports this law. However, lately, the CDC doesn't seem to understand the difference between raw milk and raw milk cheese.  They also fail to differentiate between raw milk cheese that has been aged for 60 days (legal) and raw milk cheese that hasn't been (illegal).  To lump the two together and make statements about their safety is inaccurate and irresponsible.

We are proud members of The American Cheese Society and  Ricki (our Cheese Queen) has been an active member since it was founded in 1983.  It is hardly a radical organization.  It represents large and small producers of all kinds of cheeses.

So, in our opinion, it's a sad day when the ACS has to take issue with some of the misinformation released by the CDC.  The following letter was sent to members last week:



April 12, 2012 -- In Nonpasteurized Dairy Products, Disease Outbreaks, and State Laws—United States, 1993–20061 (1), a recently released study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the authors state: “Consumption of nonpasteurized dairy products cannot be considered safe under any circumstances” and “Federal and state regulators should continue to enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products to consumers.”

As the leader in supporting and promoting North American cheese, the American Cheese Society (ACS) feels it is imperative to call attention to errors in the statements above, as well as to misleading language used throughout the CDC study.

The authors of the study assert that the interstate sale of all nonpasteurized (herein after referred to as “raw”) dairy products is illegal – suggesting that consumers who purchase raw milk cheese may be violating the law. The introduction to the study states, “In 1987, the United States Food and Drug Administration prohibited distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products in interstate commerce for sale to consumers.” This statement is false. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prohibition cited in the study refers only to raw fluid milk (2).  FDA regulations currently allow the interstate sale of raw milk cheese, so long as the cheese is made in accordance with FDA regulations, most notably with an aging period of at least 60 days (3). Consumers can legally purchase raw milk cheese from more than 80 (4) licensed producers throughout the United States -- as well as from international producers of well-known raw milk cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyere, and Roquefort.

The CDC study also states that raw dairy products – including fluid milk and cheese – pose significant health risks to consumers. However, the study doesn’t differentiate between the risks of products produced in accordance with FDA law, and those produced in violation of the law. Some of the disease outbreaks attributed to raw milk cheese originated from producers that were not following minimum FDA guidelines: in an interview with USA Today (5), Barbara Mahon, senior author of the study and deputy director of enteric diseases at the CDC, reportedly said that some disease outbreaks included in the study came from “cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that were aged less than 60 days.”

Raw milk cheese aged for less than 60 days is produced in violation of FDA law, and does not represent the vast majority of raw milk cheese available in the marketplace today. By combining data on cheeses made legally and illegally, the study does not allow consumers to make informed decisions about the risks posed by these two very different products.

ACS recognizes that safe production methods are critical to the health of consumers and our industry. We support FDA law as it is written for the production and sale of raw milk cheese. Our members adhere to the highest standards of production by:
• producing cheese in licensed facilities that are routinely inspected on the local, regional, and federal level 

• producing cheese under the oversight of licensed dairy handlers 
• aging raw milk cheese for a minimum of 60 days before it is sold

In fact, we are proud that the majority of ACS members (63% in 2011) voluntarily exceed these standards. See our Position Statement on the Safety of Raw Milk Cheese (6) to learn more about our members’ best practices.

ACS is disappointed that this study conflates two very different products – raw milk cheese and fluid raw milk – and fails to differentiate between cheeses made in accordance with FDA law, and cheeses produced illegally. By asserting that all raw dairy products are alike, the study paints an unfair picture of raw milk cheeses produced and sold legally in the marketplace today. In the future, we strongly encourage researchers to take this into consideration, and we ask journalists and media organizations to adequately fact-check such statements.

By purchasing raw milk cheeses produced by licensed cheesemakers, at reputable grocery and specialty food stores, consumers can enjoy a safe and legal product. They can also play an important role in a broader movement to support small businesses, local economies, sustainable agriculture practices, and informed food choices. Visit the ACS website (7) to learn more about the diverse, delicious, and award-winning cheeses (both raw and pasteurized) produced by our members.

About the American Cheese Society
The American Cheese Society (ACS) is the leading organization supporting the understanding, appreciation, and promotion of farmstead, artisan, and specialty cheeses produced in the Americas.
Over 1,500 members strong, ACS provides advocacy, education, business development, and networking opportunities for cheesemakers, retailers, enthusiasts, and the extended industry. ACS strives to continually raise the quality and availability of cheese in North America. For more information, visit
 Contact: Rebecca Sherman Orozco
720-328-2788 x301
American Cheese Society
2696 S. Colorado Boulevard, Suite 570
Denver, CO 80222
Phone 720-328-2788
Fax 720-328-2786>

(2)  US Food and Drug Administration. FDA plans to ban raw milk. In: FDA consumer. Washington: US Government Printing Office; 1987.
(4)  As of August 2011, 84 U.S. cheesemakers from 26 states entered raw milk cheese into the 2011 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition: