A PBS series dubbed Chef! starred Lenny Henry and premiered on television in 1993; it proved to be so popular that recurring episodes ran again and again for years — and, remarkably, they never ceased to be elegantly entertaining. Henry’s character, Chef Gareth Blackstock, was fanatically exacting in his quest for culinary perfection and one particular episode focused on his nearly quixotic search for unpasteurized Stilton. Thus, prior to the culture’s current infatuation with imported delicacies and a fascination for Euro-chic comestibles, the notion of unpasteurized cheese was on the radar for years.
Amazingly, though, the prejudice is so strong with regard to the American proclivity for pasteurization that any and all raw milk products, including cheese, are still somewhat difficult to find. Moreover, when Stuart Veldhuizen expressed a desire to start a dairy farm and make cheese with raw milk, he was met with opposition. Inspectors did their best to dissuade him. He laughs, “They said, ‘No, no, you don’t want to do that!’” He finds their fear and reluctance untenable. And well he should. Fifteen years later his farm is booming and selling 15 varieties of raw milk cheeses to some of the most chichi hotels and restaurants in Dallas, Houston and beyond.
The Veldhuizen operation categorizes cheese as “Mild,” “Medium” or “Sharp.” The first group includes Caraway Cheddar, Classic Cheddar, Paragon (aged 3 or 4 months, “slightly tangy and good for melting”). The “Medium” category includes three kinds of Cheddar — Jalapeño, Redneck and Texas Gold, along with Dublin Karst, which is “mild, buttery, semi-soft with a smooth, open texture.” The only sharp cheese from Veldhuizen is Bosque Blue. They describe it (quite accurately) in the following way: “Our famous Blue cheese has a rich and mellow flavor — almost like a Stilton — and a beautiful golden color with well-spread blue veining throughout. It has a creamy, yet crumbly texture and a basket weave outer rind. Excellent for crumbling over salads.” Additionally, Stuart Veldhuizen is enthusiastic when he describes pairing it “with port-style wines from Stone House Winery.” He adds with audible delight, “All you need are a few drops of port with that cheese. Seriously….”
Veldhuizen Farm keeps their “herd free of antibiotics and artificial hormones.” They also note, “Healthy, contented cows produce the best milk, which in turn makes the best cheese.” The farm is located about an hour and forty minutes southwest of Fort Worth and those willing to make the trip are able to buy everything from slices to entire wheels of cheese from the farm’s on-site store. Fresh eggs are also sold along with raw milk and chickens — when they are available. For Americans who have spent time in France, Italy or Switzerland and miss the unmistakable difference of fresh products, the drive is likely to prove worthwhile. Another option: Veldhuizen ships their cheeses during months that aren’t prohibitively hot and they can be ordered via their website.
As for being concerned about non-pasteurized milk? Try it just once and you’re apt to have a change of heart. Make note, though, that it can only be sold from the farm and can’t be sent to retail outlets. Happily, though, the cheese and milk are certainly less spendy than a trip to Europe — and it would make Lenny Henry, aka Chef Gareth Blackstock, rave with absolute delight.