A few days ago I published an article about two graduates of USDEC’s U.S. Cheese Training Program for gastronomy professionals at the Colegio Superior de Gastronomía and the responses I received were varied. But what most caught my attention was the need to talk about a subject that, for various reasons, we as consumers are unaware of. The fact is that cheese from the United States is, contrary to what many may think, a product that has a history and that, in addition to everything else, is recognized around the world. How about we start recognizing it too?
U.S. Cheese.since the 17th century.In fact, one of the first things that stands out is that the so-called dairy pioneers were Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. And from there the migrations were leaving history in New York, Vermont, Ohio and Wisconsin which, by 1850 already had a good amount of manufacturing.Looking up the history of U.S. Cheese I discovered that a census taken in 1850, recorded just over 200 tons of cheese made on Wisconsin farms in 1849 which means that there were already people making U.S. cheese at least as early as the early 1830s and much of what we know today of the cheese industry has to do with those who were settling Wisconsin and, as you can imagine, by the farm women who made the cheese in southeastern Wisconsin communities like New Glarus or Green County.And then, the growth of a country tied to cheese.
The expansion of the United States and its growth made the cheese industry grow as well, for obvious reasons. Today we can say that the United States has more than a thousand varieties of cheese and it is produced in all 50 states. Long gone are the days when Swiss and German migrants from Wisconsin laid the foundations of the cheese industry. Today there are a number of products that have learned to incorporate new production techniques with artisanal recipes that span across multiple generations.Cream cheese was born in New York, for example, in 1872. Sorry, Philadelphia, but the idea came a little further northeast. The creator was William Lawrence who came up with what we know today as cream cheese after experimenting with Neufchâtel. The marketing Lawrence did was because at the time he created it, this city in Pennsylvania was known for high quality foods.
But there was much more going on than what it was happening in Philly. In the early 20th century, the epicenter of the cheese region in Wisconsin – where Swiss, Brick and Limburger varieties were produced – had one cheese factory for every 3 square miles. And then, yes, there was no stopping the production and creation of cheeses and products that sought to expand the flavors that would achieve consolidation.
Creating America’s cheese for all kinds of needsThe recipes created a huge variety of options, ranging from Pepper Jack to White Cheddar, for example -yes, one of my favorites-, U.S. cheeses have won a number of awards around the world that is an interesting surprise in competitions such as the World Championship Cheese Contest or the World Cheese Awards, where for more than two consecutive years the blue cheese from Rogue Creamery in Oregon (remember that trip and the photos we uploaded in Rogue Creamery?) was awarded as the best in the world among more than 3000 participants.
Where do I find U.S. cheese in Mexico?It’s not that complicated. I will give you an interesting fact, though. In 2021 Mexico imported 138 thousand tons of cheese from all over the world. From these, 104 thousand were from the United States, so the numbers leave no doubt that, although it may surprise many, almost three quarters of the imported cheese we consume is from the United States. In the end, the palate is educated by exploring, discovering, giving it all kinds of products to learn from them, to understand what we like and what we have yet to understand.That’s what having many cheese options is all about. To be able to enjoy, to open our palate, to discover and understand new ideas and proposals, recipes that have been maintained and adapted to new technologies for many years, but improving in taste and processes. Cheese is one of the areas of gastronomy with the most paths to be explored. We are starting to tap into U.S. cheese. And the surprises keep coming.
This post is also available in: Español