With their velvety outers barely containing their silky centres, both Bries were sexy. I was pitting a French raw milk Brie de Meaux against a Whitestone Lindis Pass Brie to answer the cheesey conundrum – raw or pasteurised cheese?
I wanted to understand the difference because they both look the same. The same chalky rind, the same oozy centre. I wanted to know is it worth the fuss and the double price tag?
Back to the basics – pasteurised or raw
Most of the cheeses we eat are made from pasteurised milk which has been heated up to 75° C (167° F) for 15 seconds or more. This destroys undesirable pathogens like Listeria and E-coli which can cause foodborne illnesses.
Whilst this sounds admirably clean, raw milk advocates say pasteurisation also destroys the good bacteria and reduces the complexity, range, and strength of flavours. They say that cheese has been safely made with raw milk for millennia, and should continue so.
Thankfully some Europeans continued to make farmhouse or fermier raw milk cheese, whilst our industrial and factory producers use pasteurised. Not all French cheese is raw, far from it, and raw milk cheese must be labelled, in French au lait cru.
In 2007 changes in legislation meant that raw milk cheeses were allowed back into New Zealand. Firstly with Roquefort, then in 2009 a wider range including Brie. The legislation also meant New Zealand cheese makers could make raw milk cheese but currently none are being produced commercially.
Back to the Brie beauty contest
I was chuffed with nationalistic pride as I laid the two cheeses out. The Lindis Pass is a Brie whose looks and texture stand up to a French AOC cheese.
And it certainly lives up to its promise. Silky and smooth, it is buttery like clotted cream with a caramel nuttiness giving way to earthy mushroom. This is the best New Zealand Brie I have tasted and the Whitestone cheese makers have done a grand job producing a cheese worthy of this ancient name.
This is unlike the standard Brie/Camenberts that are available in NZ supermarkets. Sweet, creamy and pleasant, they are undemanding and nothing like either of these two starlets.
Next, the Brie de Meaux. A Fromi from Moore Wilsons.
Immediately you’re hit by the extra power of the raw milk. It has oomph. It intoxicates with its caramelised vegetal flavours, which relax into a savoury, umami tang, like the crunchy bits at the bottom of a roasting pan.
You notice how long this cheese lingers on the pallete, the tastes move and sway like a torch singer in the moonlight. This is hot, and what seduced my eyes now swooned in my mouth.
So there are a few things I learnt in this Battle of the Bries. Kiwis can make fine Brie. And I can’t wait to try a Kiwi Brie of this quality made with raw milk.
PS. We drunk a cheap and cheerful Stables Chardonnay and it was elevated into golden pineapple delight by these two cheeses. Good cheese really can make the most of cheap wine.