"Sheeps milk makes the best cheese," states Max McCalman in his book, Mastering Cheese, and I would have to agree. With the fall season just around the corner, it is the perfect time to talk up the rich, gamey milk that creates so many wonderful fresh and aged cheeses. During a staff-training course, a server once asked me what was so different about sheeps milk cheeses. To her, they were always favorited by guests on the cheese board due to their deep character and multiple layers of flavors, but there is more to this than just opinion.
What strikes me as the most pertinent (and perhaps romantic) fact about sheep is that they are survivors. Sheep thrive in conditions of strong wind, temperature extremes and rocky footing that would be intolerable to cows. Sweet and crunchy Zamorano from Spain, creamy and tart Dodoni Feta from Greece, and the oily, slightly sharp Istara from the French Pyrenees are examples of sheeps milk cheeses from such places.
Important as well is that sheep have a shorter lactation period than cows and produce less milk per day in relation to their body weight. Mother Nature makes up for the lesser quantity with milk that contains more fat and protein. Because it is thicker with a higher percentage of solids, it is closer to the final product of cheese than cows milk, which holds more water. If your heart skipped a beat when you read "more fat", remain calm. The fat globules in sheeps milk are smaller, making them easier to digest and, in fact, quite good for you.