for this was it a glorious, for this was it an honorable undertaking
January 14, 2019 4:19 PM   Subscribe

Three cheesemakers decide to invent a new American cheese: “I suggested that the three of us — Sue, Peter and myself — come up with a cheese that we define ourselves,” says Civitello. A truly new, unique recipe would have to be simple, stripping cheese down to its essential elements. The cheese would show off the unique taste that is indigenous to each creamery.

"If Cornerstone takes off, its creators plan to greatly expand the project. “In 10 years, it would be rad to have 20 cheesemakers all making Cornerstone,” says Schaal. The group even plans to allow Cornerstone to be made with milk from other animals and heritage breeds of cow like Ayrshire. At the same time, they’re somewhat wary of unrestricted growth. The group is still considering production limits and how best to assess prospective producers."


The Wisconsin Cheeseman discusses some other original American cheeses: Colby, named after the small town in north-central Wisconsin where it was developed in 1874, is similar to Cheddar but does not undergo the “cheddaring” process. [...]Monterey Jack itself is an American original. It was first made by Mexican friars in Monterey, California, in the 1800s and first sold by an entrepreneur named David Jack.

Wikipedia provides educational pictures of the cheddaring process, for the curious.

Previously.

(Title is a quote from Frankenstein.)
posted by Emmy Rae (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
For those not in the US (like me) [Google cache] The Wisconsin Cheeseman - American Cheeses - Spoiler: Baby Swiss cheese is American.
posted by unliteral at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm excited for this, but not nearly as excited as I am for the day when Cornerstone is available as a meltable American cheese square, fresh out of plastic wrap.
posted by duffell at 5:38 PM on January 14, 2019 [6 favorites]


I have a sudden craving for government cheese.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:48 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Inventing a new cheese is easy - you just take an existing cheese and bugger up the recipe a bit.

(Inventing new starters is beyond my ken...)
posted by pompomtom at 6:12 PM on January 14, 2019 [3 favorites]


Blessed.
posted by carter at 6:17 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised there's not a comment about the Cheese Mountain problem already.
posted by twoplussix at 7:11 PM on January 14, 2019


Ideally a new, exciting, and tasty cheese would increase cheese demand, thus reducing the size of surplus cheese mountain. These people are not only doing god’s work, they are true patriots.
posted by ejs at 7:15 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


Oh, I am not complaining about cheese by any means. Bring on the mountains of cheese, I'll help eat it.
posted by twoplussix at 7:51 PM on January 14, 2019


The author said he tasted all three versions: "Each version has a distinct rind, smell and flavor, but they all have a common sweetness and richness. It’s almost like comparing the flavors of honeycomb, sweet corn and sugar beets."

This is almost as satisfying as looking at a glass of wine. Call me when I can go to a cheese store and try it.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 8:03 PM on January 14, 2019 [4 favorites]


"Each version has a distinct rind, smell and flavor, but they all have a common sweetness and richness. It’s almost like comparing the flavors of honeycomb, sweet corn and sugar beets.

Are they making cheeses or fermented caramels?

Must every category of American food grow sweeter over time?
posted by jamjam at 9:27 PM on January 14, 2019 [9 favorites]


The website compares cheese and wine, in the context of controlled origin names, (thanks for the cache, unliteral) as you might expect. After all, it's what they are moaning about. I was a bit shocked therefore to see them talking about "American cheese" when that's a reference to a cheese-adjacent product (perfectly good melted over nachos or what have you of course).

I was thinking there should be a different name for what they are making. For example, British wine is different from English wine. English wine is wine made in England from grapes grown in England. Some of it is very good. British wine, on the other hand, is blended, and sometimes fortified, in the UK from wine made elsewhere from grapes grown elsewhere. Some of it is very cheap. It seems to me that a similar distinction would help US cheesemakers.

But then:
Wisconsin Cheeseman is based in the State of Wisconsin in the United States of America and operates solely in the United States. We do not market, sell, or deliver products outside the United States. This Website is for use only by persons located in the United States.
Fine. I'm happy for the rest of the world to think you're producing Velveeta. If you think Cheddar tastes like Colby, you probably are anyway...

Seriously though, stop being so paranoid about GDPR and get your heads out of the sand. You might not sell cheese overseas (though it's pretty pathetic to be determined to never aspire to), but if you want to be able to make a bloomy rind cheese and call it Brie, you'll need support outside of Wisconsin.
posted by GeckoDundee at 9:29 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Call me when I can go to a cheese store and try it.

The cat's eaten it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:17 PM on January 14, 2019 [15 favorites]


I wish this article had explained what speciates cheeses -- i.e. how do you know you've made a gouda and not a cheddar or cotija? Is it added ingredients, or weird processes, or just age? (they speak tautologically of "cheddaring" a cheese).

The only thing I can tell from the piece is that the starter has to be locally made from the same milk, which makes it recursive cheese I guess.
posted by msalt at 10:23 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


Anyone remember Lymeswold?
posted by Segundus at 11:30 PM on January 14, 2019


Msalt: it’s all those things. Plus the temperatures you’re ageing at, the size you cut the curds, how long you stir the curds, treatment of the rind, the presence (or otherwise) of maggots etc etc etc
posted by pompomtom at 11:36 PM on January 14, 2019 [1 favorite]


It seems that the point is that they’re generating a new starter line.
posted by pompomtom at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


I want to try it because I love cheese but they're gonna have to come up with a better name than Cornerstone, that's the name of some crappy new subdivision or shady strip mall bank.
posted by drinkyclown at 11:48 PM on January 14, 2019 [17 favorites]


That's sort of what the post is about, msalt. The second article expressly draws the parallels with European rules for what makes a wine the particular wine it is. No matter how closely a maker adheres to the traditions, methods, and ingredients, a sparkling wine from Oregon will never be a Champagne. A Pinot from Napa will never be a Burgundy. However, you can still make a blanc de blanc method traditionelle in Oregon, or a Pinot in California. Having the grape variety to point to (Pinot Noir, as used in Burgundy, or Chardonnay as implied by "blanc de blanc") and other oblique ways to refer to the "inspiration", such as the term "method traditionelle" helps new world producers (and old world upstarts like English sparkling wine makers) let the consumer know what to expect.

The problem is, with cheese there is no neat equivalent to grape variety. You can say things like "brined sheep's milk white curd cheese" but it's much easier to say "feta". But really, feta is equivalent to "Champagne". It's a Protected Designation, and Feta must come from certain parts of Greece or not use the name. Canada is allowed "Feta-style" for the time being, but everyone will soon have to find new names. Denmark, we're looking at you.

Any cheese making badger thinking "Greece ain't the boss of me!" should bear in mind failure to comply could mean Portuguese Bourbon, trade wars, or worse! (Worse than Portuguese Bourbon, I know, right?). But in this era of USMC, the art of the deal and what have you, who knows?

The "solution" proposed in the first article is to start making uniquely American cheeses. Cornerstone (I have to agree with drinkyclown on the name though) is hoped to become its own exclusive designation. Bourbon (and other American whiskeys) are world class in their own right, after all though presumably they were first made as a local form of Scotch whisky or Irish whiskey.

Wow. Another Westphalian comment. I should get back to work...
posted by GeckoDundee at 12:12 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


Doesn't the term “American cheese” already specifically refer to cheeses made by large-scale industrial processes, a meaning it has held since the early 20th century? If they can't wrest it back, they may have to come up with an alternate designation, like, say “Columbard cheese”.
posted by acb at 1:06 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


The "solution" proposed in the first article is to start making uniquely American cheeses.

Or to have a two-tier naming system, as for pharmaceuticals, where there's a generic name that refers to anything with the same ingredients (i.e., ibuprofen, sildenafil citrate) and a number of proprietary names (Nurafen, Viagra). Some body would come to an agreement for a generic designation for feta-style cheese or sparkling wine made to the same spec as champagne; it'd be much terser than a description, and would be distinct from the geographical designation.
posted by acb at 1:50 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


American cheese cannot be called “cheese” in America: it’s known as “pasteurized process cheese food.”

Funniest thing I've read this year.
posted by epo at 2:42 AM on January 15, 2019


USian cheese, perhaps?
posted by drlith at 4:39 AM on January 15, 2019


American cheese cannot be called “cheese” in America: it’s known as “pasteurized process cheese food.”

Cheese food; it's what cheese eats.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:49 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


IIRC, in the cheese industry, “to american” is a term of art for a process (homogenising and/or increasing the viscosity, I think)
posted by acb at 4:55 AM on January 15, 2019


that's the name of some crappy new subdivision or shady strip mall bank.

And every church where hip dads play in a Christian band.

The article in the Previously post talks about what American process cheese is more. There were strong feelings on the Blue.
posted by Emmy Rae at 4:59 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


I haven't read this yet, but Champagne, Parma, etc. etc. are regions rather than countries, so if they're following suit why not just go with the county level, which doesn't already have the connotations of "American Cheese." Is "Waukesha Cheese" not somewhat compelling?
posted by aspersioncast at 5:13 AM on January 15, 2019


My Veganuary just got harder.
posted by slogger at 6:34 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Sweeter: it's not like they're adding sugar. It's called sophistication of palate. They're just calling out tasting notes.
posted by kalessin at 6:39 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


How about a line of alt cheese called (entire phrase required):

I can't believe it's not Gouda
I can't believe it's not Roquefort
I can't believe it's not Burgandy
I can't believe it's not Laphroaig Single Malt peated Whisky from Islay
I can't believe it's not Pasteurized Process Cheese Food (made in Portugal by some multinational that sees a market opportunity, what goes around...)

(actually works for any product if the phrase "I can't" can be purchased)
posted by sammyo at 6:51 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


The Wisconsin Cheeseman overlooked at least one interesting American cheese: Liederkranz, which was lost for 25 years and then brought back. I thought there had been a post here about its reintroduction, but apparently not.
posted by TedW at 6:52 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]


Also Humboldt Fog. Though I imagine some Germans say it shouldn't be called that unless it's made on the historical estates of von Humboldts.

I really find place designations annoying and the fact that California can legally make both champagne and bourbon makes me happy.
posted by mark k at 7:15 AM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]


USian cheese, perhaps?

"Freedom Cheese?"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:43 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Humboldt Fog is on the shortlist of things I truly miss about CA. I can find it in CO but it is ridiculously expensive. It's normal expensive in CA, but what they're asking for it here when you can find it? Hoo boy.
posted by East14thTaco at 8:26 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


A while back a couple of brothers in law started Beehive Cheese, in a place called Uintah, Utah. I toured their excellent small plant, my students and I got the lowdown on their processes and commitment to cheesing. There are a number of excellent creameries in Utah, but Beehive uses wild ingredients, sage, elderberries, and so forth. They have created a unique niche. I think a cheese like cornerstone could be the one big batch product they make that could be a hedge against a rough economy. Their productions are pricey, but ever so tasty.
posted by Oyéah at 8:31 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was a bit shocked therefore to see them talking about "American cheese" when that's a reference to a cheese-adjacent product

This is not true. It's fine to not like "American cheese" if you just don't like it, but it is certainly cheese. There are a fair number of products—like Kraft Singles—which are not actually cheese. They're "processed cheese food", which is not American cheese, and probably shouldn't exist if not for political lobbying of some sort.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:47 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is "Waukesha Cheese" not somewhat compelling?
To me it sounds like the latest new drug the kids are cooking up or else some industrial byproduct.
posted by soelo at 9:01 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


For anyone jonesing for Humboldt Fog outside of CA, it’s often carried at Costco, should you have one of those handy. It’s not exactly cheap, but the price isn’t totally exorbitant, although you might end up with more than you want.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:50 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]


Colby, named after the small town in north-central Wisconsin

That only became the story after they had printed the labels without properly consulting marketing. Original!y it was named after the family from Dynasty, forever associated with glamour in the mind of American cheesemongers. The next one was to be Falcon Crest.
posted by biffa at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I feel duty bound to point out that a 10-year plan to produce Cornerstone did not go well for Infocom.
posted by offog at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't believe it's not Gouda
I can't believe it's not Roquefort
I can't believe it's not Burgundy


I can't believe this isn't already for sale at Trader Joe's.

The second article expressly draws the parallels with European rules for what makes a wine the particular wine it is.

Oops, missed the second article! Thanks.
posted by msalt at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2019


The next one was to be Falcon Crest.
Channing does not sound like a good cheese name, but it might pass for a cheese spread. Gioberti would be a greta name for a smoked gouda.
posted by soelo at 2:01 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


To me it sounds like the latest new drug the kids are cooking up or else some industrial byproduct.

It's called waukesha cheese. It's a mixture of milk and bacteria that they let sit for months. The kids eat it with crackers and wine.
posted by stet at 2:03 PM on January 15, 2019 [9 favorites]


I couldn't help but read your comment in ICE-T voice, stet.
posted by some loser at 5:29 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


The next one was to be Falcon Crest.

"Knots Landing" *does* sound like a winery.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:34 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]


It sounds analogous to making sourdough, in that they're trying to catch their own lactic acid bacteria that thrives in their milk?
posted by lucidium at 4:38 AM on January 17, 2019


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