Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Next Frontier for Cheese: Raw Milk Microflora

When I grow up, I want to be Bronwen Percival. Seriously. And not just because she's the buyer for Neal's Yard Dairy, but because she continually has her finger on the pulse of what will make artisan cheesemaking better. Her latest feat includes launching a Kickstarter project that aims to translate a new textbook about raw milk microbiology into English.

Every two years, Bronwen organizes a spectacular conference in Somerset County, England, called the Science of Artisan Cheese. (This year the conference is on August 19-20 - more info here). At that conference two years ago, Dr. Christine Montel introduced a new practical guide/textbook to raw milk microbiology, written by a collective of French scientists and dairy technicians to help French cheesemakers preserve and encourage the natural diversity of their raw milk, which is crucial to the flavor—and to the safety—of artisan cheeses.

Bronwen says the book is groundbreaking because it contains legitimate peer-reviewed science combined with the sort of practical guidance that can be applied on the ground, making it an incredible tool for cheesemakers.

But here's the kicker: it's written in French.

So, during the past year, Bronwen's been working with representatives of the French group to organize a way to translate the book. To her credit, she's negotiated a contract that does not allow her to make a profit through the sale of the book, so she thought a medium like Kickstarter (which will allow her to raise the funds before the project commences and then distribute the book as a ‘reward’) would be an ideal way to raise the money, while also raising awareness of the cause.

The project has the support of several influential organizations, including the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association and Neal’s Yard Dairy in England, Jasper Hill in the United States, and the Conseil National des Appelations d’Origine Laitières in France. And of course Cheese Underground in Wisconsin (for what it's worth).

Here’s a link to the Kickstarter site, which explains more about the book and the project. A minimum of 12,000 pounds is needed for the project to commence. I just contributed 100 pounds (I don't know what that is in dollars - maybe I should have checked that first), and would encourage anyone with an interest in growing the artisan cheese community to contribute.

"Especially now, the information in this book is particularly relevant and needed," Bronwen says. "We have just over a month to raise the money. Please join us and help to reshape modern farmhouse cheesemaking knowledge and practice."

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