Renowned cheese expert Max McCalman will be in town this week to lead cheese tastings and sign books, but don’t be surprised if he slips in some evangelism for raw-milk cheeses.
“I feel very passionate about them, and I’ve studied them extensively,” McCalman says. “Raw-milk cheese has a great food-safety record. We can eat raw oysters and eat raw meat in this country if we want to, but not raw-milk cheese. There’s something wrong with that, especially since cheese hasn’t been implicated in as many food-poisoning issues as raw seafood, raw meat or even raw vegetables.”
Federal regulations require raw-milk cheeses sold in the United States to be aged at least 60 days. As a result, what many cheese experts consider to be authentic versions of brie, Camembert and more great cheeses of the world cannot be purchased in America.
McCalman, 58, is the co-author (with David Gibbons) of three books on cheese, including his latest, “Mastering Cheese” (Clarkson Potter, 2009). He’ll be at five Schnucks stores Friday and Saturday.
Schnucks has recently begun implementing a cheese-selection and -pairing system called CheeseClock that’s proprietary to Artisanal Premium Cheese, the New York-based cheese purveyor where McCalman serves as dean of curriculum and maître fromager (master cheesemonger). Artisanal grew out of McCalman’s work developing a cheese program in the 1990s for chef and owner Terrance Brennan of Picholine restaurant in New York.
McCallum’s second book, “Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best” (Clarkson Potter, 2005), included a focus on cheese-and-wine pairings and won a James Beard Award. The CheeseClock program includes a color-coding system for pairing cheeses with wines — or beers.
McCallum would love to one day add domestic and imported raw-milk cheeses to his company’s offerings, but for the time being, he’s simply hoping to maintain the status quo in federal regulations.
“I think keeping the 60-day rule is the best we’regoing to be able to do for now,” he says.