Sister Noella – Abbey of Regina Laudis

In Bethelehem, CT, set in beautiful surroundings, you’ll find the Benedictine convent Abbey of Regina Laudis. 450 acres of farmland and forests tucked away in Litchfield county. Amazing. It was of course cheese that brought me to Sister Noella and the Abbey, or us as I took my whole family along. A cheese and a dairy that had completely missed my radar. Not that I know of every farmstead cheese maker in the world, far from it, and especially not in Connecticut, hardly regarded as one of the cheese making states in the US. Nothing like Wisconsin and Vermont. In addition, they only make about six wheels of cheese per week, of raw milk from four cows. Hand milked of course. Barely for sale either; at least you have to go there to buy it. Not on a Wednesday, though. There is, however, one particular and important reason Sister Noella appeared on my screen. Well, they told me at Cato Corner Farm I should visit her, but more importantly a Facebook post about Sister Noella and her doctoral work on microorganisms, Geotrichum Candidum in particular. If I’d been part of the inner circle of world cheese making, I would have long since known about her. She’s a capacity in her field. Never too late, though, to become acquainted with interesting people. We had an awesome hour together in the cellar (and the Church on the hill). We arrived very unannounced, so it was just about we got to meet with her. Glad she managed to squeeze us in.

Sister Noella
Sister Noella at Abbey of Regina Laudis, Connecticut

Making Cheese at Cato Corner Farm

I was really pleased when I was invited to join Cato Corner Farm in making cheese Thursday July 6th. Quite unexpected, but all the more delightful. It was just randomly I met Mark Gillman as he came by the cheese shop. We talked about cheese and I told him I had been invited to make cheese at Vulto Creamery, but due to very sad circumstances that was naturally cancelled. So Mark invited me straight away to come and make cheese with him.

Cato Corner Farm – Connecticut farmstead cheese

Tucked away in the Connecticut countryside, not far from Colchester, is the Cato Corner Farm along Cato Corner Road. I do not know which came first, the farm or the road; not that it matters either. The fun thing is that this is a farmstead dairy, making cheese from raw milk. I know about some of them, especially in Vermont. I am particularly concerned with raw milk cheese, so there are quite a few dairies that are excluded from my list, naturally. Having said that, the USA is a huge country, with such a variety when it comes to cheese making, that I am fine with not having a complete overview. Even counting just those doing raw milk cheese. Since I after all are in Connecticut for the moment, on vacation, it was sort of good fortune there was a farmstead dairy close by, doing raw milk cheese. So we were of course set off to visit, not only once, but twice.

Cato corner farm
The Cheese Shop at Cato Corner Farm, Colchester, CT.

Cheese during pregnancy

I notice quite a few people, women I assume, searching for ‘cheese during pregnancy’ and ends up at I like that. So to cater for those looking for important information about cheese during their pregnancy, here’s a small notice on a very important topic.

Conventional wisdom has it women should not eat cheese made from raw milk, or unpasteurized cheese if you like, during their pregnancy. That is true, but quite oversimplified. If you are pregnant you should stay away from any soft or semi-soft cheese irrespective of pasteurization or not. That means if you are pregnant, stay away from any soft cheese, bloomy rind cheese, blue cheese and the washed rind cheeses (those with a light red/orange rind), i.e. also the pasteurized ones.

By the way, it is not only cheese you should be careful with during a pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about that. Denmark had an outbreak stemming from smoked salmon last year. Get it?

It is not very likely you will ever catch listeria from eating any cheese really, but the consequences for the fetus is very, very serious if you do. That’s not a risk you should take, however small it is.

Naturally there are more outbreaks of listeria from pasteurized cheese than raw milk cheese, simply because there are so much more pasteurized cheese made in the world. This may sound like outbreaks are frequent, but they are not. In USA there was an outbreak in 2017 from a raw milk washed rind cheese causing two fatalities as far as I know. In 2007 five people died in Norway from having consumed pasteurized Camembert. I’ve written somewhere else, pasteurization protects the milk, not the cheese.

Firm and hard cheeses are not considered representing any risk for catching listeria.
Not much more to say about this.

And remember; a good cup of tea pairs well with cheese.

Read more: Cheese and Listeria

What you eat during pregnancy is your responsibility and yours only. If you are in doubt about anything regarding food and pregnancy, always consult your medical doctor.

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