Say Cheese Please!

by Jeanne

humbolt_fog_smToday is Cheese Lover’s Day. Well it really was on Wednesday but I had some problems finishing this post of a technical nature. Anyway, I’m not sure who determined this special event or for that matter how I know this fact. But there are electronic greetings for the holiday so it must be real. Fact is every day should be a cheese day. Nothing’s more divine than a loaf of bread, accompanied with cheese, olives and wine.

Cheese is many things. It can be comforting in the form of a grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese or elegant in the form of a cheese soufflé or as a dessert as is traditionally practiced in the European culture. Today, most of us have access to handmade cheeses. Living in Northern Californian artisanal and farmhouse cheese are a constant in the mix of the bounty we reap at farmer’s markets, natural food stores and in local restaurants.

California has been making cheese for as long as it’s been making wine. Today, the state produces a lot of cheese as a by product of our high milk production.

Cheese making started in the American colonies in the year 1611 near Rome, NY. Today most Americans prefer a hard or semi-hard table cheese to a crumbly and creamy cheese. Cheddar appears everywhere–burgers, Tex-Mex dishes, and twice baked potatoes.

California cheese making began over 200 years ago when Father Junipero Serra introduced cheese making to the Spanish missions. The Real California Cheese board states that the first commercially produced cheese was made in 1857 near San Francisco by pioneer Clarissa Steele.

In 1882 David Jacks, a Monterey County entrepreneur, became the first to market Monterey Jack, which his Swiss and Portuguese dairy operators developed from old Mission recipes. Another milestone took place in 1915, when a San Francisco wholesaler forgot about some fresh Monterey Jack that was in storage. Time rolls by and WWII disrupts U.S. shipments of Parmesan and Romano from Italy. He then stumbles across the aged Jack, and a new cheese that when hardened is sweeter and nuttier than the younger cheese is born.

Today, California boasts great original cheeses such as Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese, Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses such as Mt. Tam, and St. Pat’s. Cypress Grove’s mold-ripened Humboldt Fog with a dividing layer of ash running through the middle

Four things you can do to become a frommage fancier:

1. Listen to Steve Jenkin’s, author of The Cheese Primer, radio archive on The Splendid Table. He’s also a cheese monger in NYC.

2. Check out The American Cheese Society’s 2004 winners in their annual judging competition. Someday I would like to be a judge…all that quality cheese.

3. Find out your cheese personality .

4. Eat some local cheese, please.

A Cheese Dinner

Queso Fundido with Corn-Bread Dippers

Mixed baby greens tossed in orange citrus vinaigrette, topped with olives, Manchego cheese, and toasted walnuts

Roasted Eggplant Roulade with Oregano and Marinated Goat Cheese

Roquefort Flan

Goat Cheese Ravioli, Spicy Tomato Puree and Cracked Black Pepper

Mascarpone Cheesecake in Mexican
Chocolate Crust
with Cajeta Sauce