Pregnant women are usually told to avoid soft, runny or veiny cheeses because they have a higher risk of listeria development. Listeria Monocytogenes is a bacteria commonly found in the farm environment, among other places. It can contaminate cheesemaking equipment, and from there, cheese. The New York Times reported over the weekend that a recent survey of large and small cheese manufacturers found listeria in about 1/4 of the facilities. Yikes! Considering how rare listeria infection is (it affects about 2500 people per year in the U.S) that’s a pretty high number. Listeria’s not an issue for most of the general population, but those with compromised immune systems can become dangerously ill from the bacteria. And pregnant women have to be especially careful because if the fetus becomes infected, there can be dire consequences. Hence, the soft cheese scare. The reason young cheese is riskier is twofold: the more hospitable environment it creates for bacteria, and the common use of unpasteurized milk in these cheeses. Older cheeses can also be made with unpasteurized milk, but the bacteria cannot live for more than 90 days.
Pregnant cheese lovers, I have good news. There are lots of yummy, fancy, runny, moldy and otherwise off-limits-seeming cheeses that are not out of your pregnant reach. Click on for five delicious pasteurized cheeses anyone would be proud to serve at Thanksgiving, or anytime.
If you’re craving Brie, try….
1. Robiola Bosina, From Caseficio Alta Langa, Italy
“This luscious little slab of mild, creamy goodness is made from the pasteurized milk of Piedmont cows and sheep, making for a perfectly balanced set of flavors: mushroomy, salty, and sweet. Bosina’s silky interior has been known to run from the tender, edible rind ever so gently across the plate when given the time to warm up, so be ready with slices of crusty bread in one hand and a flute of Prosecco* in the other.” (*Or, of course, sparkling cider)
2. St. Marcellin, from Fromagerie Curtet, France
“This one’s a soft-ripened disk of sweet, pasteurized cow milk from the northern French province of Dauphine. It has a golden crust and unparalleled silky texture. Aged about one month, the flavor is comparable to Brie de Meaux: mushroomy, truffly and earthy with a delicate residual tang. As it ripens further, the flavors become robust, while the softening texture becomes more dependent on its ceramic home for stability.”
If you’re craving fresh soft cheese, try….
2. La Tur, From Caseficio Alta Langa, Italy
“From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang. The effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop; decadent and melting from the outside in.”
4. Coach Farms Fresh Goat Cheeses (All products from this farm are made with pasteurized milk.)
If you’re craving Blue, try…
5. Gorgonzola from Ciresa, Italy.
6. Stilton from Tuxford & Tebbutt, England
“Made with pasteurized cow’s milk, it is ripened 3-4 months under carefully controlled cool, humid conditions. Unlike other blues, Stilton’s veining comes about by piercing the wheel as many as 300 times after one month of aging, allowing the blue to develop in the cheese with the introduction of oxygen.”
Cheese plate photo: Simon Doggett/flickr. Other images and Descriptions from Murray’s Cheese Shop. All cheeses are available for shipping from murrayscheese.com or coachfarm.com. Or check a cheese counter near you!