The conversation over what kind of cheese is cool for consumption during pregnancy has got to be one of the more polarizing debates among cheese-eaters-with-child. Every pregnant woman has her own way of following — or not following — the supposed rules about eating unpasteurized (raw) milk cheese, so when Anjali asked me to for help with finding a selection of cheeses for her Grown-Up Baby Shower, I devised a cheese lineup that any pregnant woman can feel safe about consuming, regardless of how rule-abiding she may be.
First, a brief word on raw milk cheese and listeria:
Sadly, raw milk cheeses get a bad rap, even though the truth is that raw milk cheeses aged for over 60 days have not been shown to harbor listeria, the bacteria that can cause dangerous complications for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Since this country prohibits the sale of raw milk cheese aged under 60 days anyway, the high-moisture, soft cheeses made with raw milk that we're so warned against aren't even in this country for us to consume!
Aged raw milk cheeses are too dry to even carry the bacteria. Young, soft cheeses, with their high-moisture content, could theoretically support the growth of listeria, but incidentally, most cases of the bacteria have occurred in pasteurized milk cheeses that have been improperly pasteurized.
But let's move beyond the raw milk debate. Because who wants to discuss that at a baby shower, anyway?
Here's the safe-for-all cheese lineup that Anjali served at the baby shower, a worry-free assortment of pasteurized milk and aged raw milk cheeses enjoyed by every guest at the party — especially the pregnant women!
Pregnancy-Safe Cheese Assortment for a Baby Shower
A pasteurized sheep milk cheese from the Pyrenees, reminiscent of Pyrenees Brebis or Ossau Iraty, both famed and praised, but made with raw milk. Etorki has all the same qualities as those two famous stars of the cheese world — rich, buttery, and nutty — but since it's made with pasteurized milk, any pregnant woman can enjoy it. Sheep milk cheese has a significantly higher fat content than goat or cow cheese, which is another reason to serve it to pregnant women. Give them those fatty goods!
What's the next best thing to wine? Cheese with wine, obviously. If you're pregnant and pining after just a bit of swill, this cheese might cut the craving just a bit. It's a pasteurized goat milk cheese from Southern Spain, cured for 2-3 days in grape must before aging. The wine wash imparts delicately boozy notes to the paste of the cheese and a definite winey smell to the rind. Perhaps it's not the real thing, but why not get it where you can?
Super soft and gooey, this pasteurized milk blue cheese feels like one of the cheeses your doctors warn against eat while pregnant. It somehow carries both the strength of a blue and the mildness of sweet butter, so will suit various sorts of blue lovers. It's pretty, too, with light blue veining and a texture that nearly oozes when perfectly ripe.
Sini Fulvi Taleggio
Another soft cheese made with pasteurized milk, to satisfy those lovers of Brie but who have been told to stay away. Taleggio is slightly stinky, but balanced with such milky richness, it seems too apropos not to serve at a shower. There's something that made us choose gooey, rich, sumptuous cheeses for this baby shower, perhaps to pay the mothers-to-be the highest of respects! Nothing like a sinfully creamy cheese to show that you care.
Emmi Kaltbach Gruyère
Yep, it's a raw milk cheese, but with 9 months of age, this one is unequivocally safe to consume. It's nice to have one raw cheese in the mix, and this one is tops. It's nutty— nearly caramel-y— from its cooking process during cheesemaking, which literally cooks the milk sugars and lends a sweetness that's palpable. If you can't find this Gruyère, go for an aged Appenzeller, Hoch Ybrig, or Pleasant Ridge Reserve. All made with raw milk and all safe, no matter what cheese diet the mother-to-be follows.
Do you have any cheese recommendations for moms-to-be?
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)