New Guide to American Artisanal Cheeses Presented Today

A new and unique book, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, by Jeff Roberts, was presented today at the Chiesa San Rocco in Bra. The deconsecrated church is the headquarters of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity during Cheese 2007, the sixth edition of the four-day long Slow Food exhibition dedicated to the world of milk in all its forms.
The first reference work of its kind, the fully illustrated guide brings together 345 of the best small-scale dairies around the United States. Here one can find scores of cheesemakers from states known for their cheese, such as Coach Farm in upstate New York and Cypress Grove on the northern Californian coast, as well as a producer of organic cheeses in the high New Mexican desert and a German couple whose goats graze on the tropical foliage of the slopes of a volcano in Hawaii.
The cheesemakers are organized geographically, and each in-depth profile describes their history and cheeses with details on production methods and suggested wine and beer pairings.
The panorama of American artisanal cheese has changed greatly over the past few years, a point which was made by the three speakers at the book presentation: the author, Jeff Roberts, a co-founder of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont and a Slow Food USA national director; Piero Sardo, President of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity; and Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food.
Jeff Roberts talked about his inspiration for the atlas, namely the Slow Food Editore guide to Italian cheeses. “When I first saw it, I thought at some point it would be wonderful to do something like that for American cheeses, when we had enough producers.” Now, he said, there are twice as many small-scale cheesemakers as six or seven years ago, and the number is growing rapidly.
“The United States used to be viewed as the land of industrial, processed cheese,” he said, but through events like Cheese small-scale artisanal American cheesemakers are teaching the rest of the world about the diverse range of good, clean and fair cheeses that are being made all over the country.
Piero Sardo mentioned the Slow Food Presidium for American Raw Milk Cheeses. “Usually a presidium is for just one product, but this one is unusual because it covers many different products,” he said. “But we wanted to send a strong political message about the value of making cheeses with raw milk, which is still very hard to do in the United States.”
However, around half of the cheesemakers profiled in the atlas are using raw milk, and Sardo described how the quality of American cheeses has improved since the first tastings for the presidium, five or six years ago.
“This book describes a small revolution,” said Carlo Petrini, who also wrote a foreword for the atlas. “The United States never stops amazing me,” he said, referring to the micro-brewery explosion and the boom in farmers’ markets, as well as the changing cheese scene.
In fact Petrini was astonished by the scope of the book. “When Jeff first told me he wanted to survey American cheeses, I thought it would be a simple undertaking,” he said, weighing the heavy book in his hands. He spoke with great admiration of the end result, which he said would need to be constantly updated, given the huge upsurge in American artisanal cheese production. He was particularly proud that it was produced by someone with such close ties to Slow Food. “It is a very precious work,” he concluded.

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