Cheese-making dreams come true with raw milk donation

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How Alberta Milk’s gift-in-kind supports future cheese makers

One of Alan Roote's dreams as a cheese maker came true in 2017 and the benefits of it may affect more than just the quality of his product.

Last year, the NAIT Culinary Arts and artisanal cheese-making instructor received a new processor licence from Alberta Milk, the province’s association for dairy producers. It allows him to use raw milk direct from local farms.

“Using raw milk [allows us] to experiment with whatever recipe, whatever kind of cheese we want to make,” Roote says.

And, support from industry could just be what the program needs to inspire future cheese makers.

Producing better quality cheese

Today, Roote produces a wider range of cheeses than he has previously made at NAIT. In general, it also tends to mean more flavourful cheeses – a truly good gouda, for example. Using store-bought milk, which is homogenized and pasteurized, simply didn't cut it. “It didn’t mat together,” says Roote. “It was dry, it was dense and it didn’t melt. It was just terrible.”

“It didn’t mat together,” says Roote. “It was dry, it was dense and it didn’t melt. It was just terrible.”

This disappointing outcome happens for 2 reasons. One is that homogenization breaks up fat molecules in milk, which affects the texture and flavour when it's made into cheese. Killing off beneficial bacteria through pasteurization can have the same impact.

By controlling these processes himself, in a way that still meets legislated health standards, Roote can safely produce authentic and tasty cheddar, Brie, feta and more.

Culinary Arts students learn in NAIT classroom how to use raw milk donation in the artisanal cheese making process.

 Growing Alberta’s Cheese-making industry

Thanks to a donation from Alberta Milk, he has now taught approximately 500 students—that’s more than 60 or 70 more students annually – on how to make great cheese.  

This could lead to dreams being realized for the province's cheese industry, too. Though Alberta is among the country's biggest cheese consumers, it is far from ranking among the largest producers, namely Quebec and Ontario. By showing how links can be made between small-batch producers and local dairy farmers – and the associated economic and environmental benefits, a program like Roote's could point the "whey" toward growth.

“If we can get some more cheese-makers in Alberta, or even in the Western provinces," he says, "to me that would be a win-win.”

NAIT is proud to celebrate the success of Essential: The NAIT Campaign. Thanks to thousands of donors, we raised more than $100 million for student success, applied research and campus development. In appreciation, NAIT is sharing 100 reasons how donors are having an essential effect on our campus and the community. nait.ca/EssentialEffect.