ARE ALL CELLO CHEESES MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK?
The FDA ingredient labeling laws require processors to identify all ingredients present in a food in descending order of predominance by weight. Ingredients must be labeled using their common and usual name, for example, milk, cheese cultures, salt, rennet, etc., and non-mandatory ingredient information is generally discouraged. Although not required by law, many producers will list “pasteurized milk” in lieu of the simple declaration, “milk”, to provide additional information for consumers. Many authentic, imported, artisan cheeses, like Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are made with milk that is heat treated – and this milk is commonly described as being “cooked.” The time and temperature of this cook does not fully satisfy FDA’s criteria for being called “pasteurized” milk. The cheese is then aged to develop a characteristic flavor, color and texture. The FDA requires that imported cheeses made from unpasteurized milk must be aged for at least 60 days. The FDA is now reviewing the scientific basis for this. Cello Pecorino Romano is typically aged for at least six months. Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are aged for at least 10 months. This ageing process allows the acids, salt and time to destroy harmful bacteria that may not have been eliminated during the milk “cooking” phase. The US Food and Drug Administration recently released a statement concerning the potential for food-borne illness associated with soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. Not all products made from unpasteurized milk contain harmful bacteria. Data indicate that aged, hard cheeses, such as Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano do not present the same potential for food-borne illness as soft cheeses that are not aged and are made with unpasteurized milk. The FDA recommends that the aged, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems avoid cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Consumers should be guided by the advice of their physicians and the FDA.
WHAT IS CHEESE PAPER?
Cheese paper has an outer layer made of wax and an inner layer, that touches the cheese, made of a light plastic wrap. Cheese paper is designed to provide the ideal environment in which to store cheese. Waxed paper, foil and plastic wraps are also acceptable, and more commonly available, means of storing most types of cheeses. Learn how to properly store your favorite cheeses in Storing Cheese.
DOES CHEESE NEED BE TO REFRIGERATED?
The FDA recommends all soft cheese be refrigerated between 35 degrees and 40 degrees F in its original wrapping until ready to use. Once opened, wrap cheese in cheese paper or wax paper and continue to store in refrigerator to extend its shelf life. Hard cheeses like Parmesan, Asiago and Romano are tastiest when consumed at room temperature. However, they should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve their quality.
IT SEEMS LIKE A WASTE TO THROW AWAY THE RIND OF THE CHEESE. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO WITH IT?
During the aging of Italian and Italian-style hard cheeses such as Parmesans and Romanos, a natural rind is formed that is the result of the drying process. While it is somewhat harder in texture, the rind has lots of flavor. It can be used to add an authentic flavor to your favorite dishes, including soups, stews, sauces and beans.
WHAT TYPES OF MILK DO YOU USE TO MAKE CELLO CHEESES?
All Cello cheeses are made from cow’s milk, with the exception of Pecorino Romano, which is made from sheep’s milk.
DO YOU SELL ANY LACTOSE-FREE CHEESES?
Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk. People who are lactose intolerant are not able to digest this sugar. Individual tolerances to lactose vary – some people who are lactose intolerant can consume small amounts of foods containing lactose without experiencing symptoms. Hard, aged cheeses like Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Asiago, Romano and Pecorino Romano contain negligible amounts of lactose – hardly enough to result in symptoms among those people who are lactose intolerant. In the making of hard cheeses, rennet and natural bacteria are added to milk to form “curds.” The curds and whey are separated, and lactose is removed from the cheese-forming curds along with the whey. Any small amount of lactose that may remain with the curds is digested by natural bacteria and enzymes as the cheese ages. There is no FDA definition for “lactose free.” However, manufacturers are required to provide information on their labels that is truthful and not misleading. Total sugars, including lactose, on our hard, aged cheeses is declared as “0” grams per serving (< 0.00106 ounces per 1 ounce serving).
ARE THERE ALLERGENS IN ANY OF YOUR CELLO CHEESES?
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act identified eight most common allergenic foods: Milk Eggs Fish (e.g. bass, flounder, cod) Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp) Tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pecans) Peanuts Wheat Soybeans The act requires all labels must clearly identify all ingredients that contain these eight common food allergens. As you can well expect, cheese is made from milk and therefore contains the allergen, MILK. Certain imported cheeses, notably Grana Padano, typically contains Egg White Lysozyme, an egg derivative, and the additional allergen EGG. Since labeling of any of the eight allergens is required by law, those who have potential for adverse reaction to these ingredients should always check the label before consuming.
CAN I FREEZE CHEESE? IF SO, FOR HOW LONG?
You can freeze several types of hard cheese. However, it is recommended not to freeze cheese longer than two months. Freezing cheese may diminish its flavor. It is not recommended to freeze Mascarpone at all as it cannot be frozen without destroying the texture.
DO YOU SELL ANY GLUTEN-FREE CHEESES?
All Cello cheeses are gluten-free. Most Cello cheeses are made of only four ingredients: milk, cheese cultures, salt and enzymes. One exception is Mascarpone which is made with only milk, cream and citric acid. These ingredients are not grain-based, and so, these items would be considered a naturally gluten-free food. In a few of our grated, shredded, and shaved cheeses we may include powdered cellulose to prevent caking, these cheeses are also gluten-free. Please reference the ingredient statement on our packaging for a full list of what goes into our cheeses.
HOW SHOULD I STORE UNUSED CHEESE SO IT STAYS FRESH?
For optimal storage and preservation of flavor of cheese wedges, we recommend using cheese paper or wax paper. Cheese paper allows the cheese to breathe and will maintain optimal humidity. You will extend the shelf life of your cheese by wrapping it in this paper and storing it in your refrigerator. Grated, shredded or shaved cheeses should be stored in air tight containers. These cheeses can be frozen for extended use. However, freezing may slightly diminish the flavor.
IF MY CHEESE IS MOLDY IS IT STILL OKAY TO EAT?
Molds are everywhere – in the air, indoors and outside, year round and on all surfaces. Certain cheeses, like Gorgonzola and Bleu, are made using selected molds in the manufacturing process to develop a distinctive flavor, appearance and texture. However, some molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. In certain cases, molds that you may see on the surface are also present inside the food. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service provides some very specific instructions for handling moldy foods. For cheeses, the action you take depends on the type and form of the cheese. SOFT CHEESES – Cheeses like Mascarpone, cottage cheese or cream cheese for example, should be discarded if mold is observed. Although you may see mold only on the surface, it’s likely that mold and possibly other bacteria are growing beneath the surface. CRUMBLED, SHREDDED, SLICED CHEESES (ALL TYPES) – Just like soft cheeses, mold that may be apparent on the surface may be growing beneath the surface, too. It is advisable to discard all cheeses that are crumbled, shredded or sliced if they become moldy. HARD CHEESES – Where mold is not introduced as part of the production process, you may still use the product, provided you can cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot. (Be sure to take care that the knife you use does not touch the mold and cross-contaminate another part of the cheese.) CHEESES MADE WITH MOLD – Handle cheeses like Gorgonzola and Bleu cheese wedges in the same way as hard cheeses. You may cut off mold at least 1 inch around the moldy spot. However, in the case of Gorgonzola or Bleu cheese crumbles, handle these products as described in soft cheeses or crumbled above.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PARMIGIANO REGGIANO AND PARMESAN?
The characteristic flavor and texture of Parmigiano Reggiano is the result of production that is limited to specific provinces in Italy, precise production methods, controlled feeding of the cows and strict standards that govern its D.O.P. mark of quality. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can only be declared as such when made using specific traditional production methods within the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, and specific regions in the provinces of Bologna and Mantua. Cheese made outside of these Italian regions and produced with a similar process is allowed to be called Parmesan.
WHAT TYPES OF RENNET ARE USED IN YOUR CHEESE?
There are basically four different sources of rennet (labeled as enzymes in the ingredient statement): animal, genetically engineered, vegetable and microbial. The latter two types, vegetable and microbial, are not derived from animals and are considered suitable for lacto-vegetarians and those who wish to eliminate foods in their diet that come from animal sources. Practically speaking, cheeses made with vegetable rennet are not as widely available because of high cost and limited supply. Artisan cheeses imported from Italy, including Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano use animal rennet to form the curds from milk to make cheese. Other imported cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, gouda and Havarti use microbial rennet in the cheese-making process. Many, but not all domestic cheeses use microbial rennet. Certain domestic cheeses use animal rennet or enzymes in the attempt to replicate authentic imported or European flavors in the cheese. The cheeses varieties in our Cello Variety Pack, Aged Cheddar, French Swiss, Creamy Havarti and Dutch Gouda are all made using microbial rennets, and are generally considered suited to a vegetarian diet the includes milk.
ARE ANY CELLO CHEESES CONSIDERED VEGAN?
Since cheese is made from milk, and vegans eliminate all animal products from their diet, including dairy and egg, cheese is not a food that would be considered part of a vegan diet. (Vegans have such compassion for animals that their lifestyle is often characterized by avoiding all products made from animals, including leather, wool/silk clothing, down, etc.). Vegetarians also do not eat meat, fish or poultry. Lacto-vegetarians will consume dairy (milk) products but not egg.
WHAT IS NATAMYCIN AND WHY IS IT USED IN CHEESE PRODUCTS?
Natamycin is a natural ingredient approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for use on cheese to inhibit the growth of molds. Many types of cheeses are typically aged to develop a specific flavor, texture and color. Natamycin is applied to the surface of the cheese to retard mold growth.
WHAT IS CELLULOSE AND WHY IS IT USED IN CHEESE PRODUCTS?
Cellulose comes from plants and is a naturally occurring source of fiber in our diets. Cellulose is often added to grated or shredded cheeses at low levels (approximately 1% – 2%) to improve “flow-ability” and prevent clumping or caking. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers cellulose a safe and suitable optional ingredient for use in grated and shredded cheeses.
DOES THE RIND OF CELLO CHEESE CONTAIN WAX OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT IS NOT EDIBLE?
All ingredients used in the manufacturing of our Cello cheeses are food grade and approved for use in foods by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Production of our Cello lines of hard cheeses begins with the formation of a cheese curd that is placed into molds to give the wheel its final shape. Wheels are then salted and aged to develop flavor, color and texture. An FDA-approved ingredient (natamycin) is applied to the surface of the wheel during aging to prevent the formation of mold. During aging, a natural rind is formed that is the result of the drying. Sometimes a food-grade black wax is applied to whole wheels after aging to preserve quality. This wax is specially formulated and approved for food use. It would not be harmful if consumed, but it’s not particularly tasty or intended to be eaten.