Sep 9, 2016

Six Cheesy Names

Monterey Jack takes half of its name from a place where Franciscan friars around Monterey, CA, crafted a mild white cheese throughout the 19th century. The second part comes from Scottish immigrant David Jack, who started marketing his own version of the cheese.

When Jack first came to the US in 1841, he worked as an army contractor, and he eventually became so successful that he owned most of the real estate in Monterey County. The rapid expansion of his land holdings left him owning shares in a number of dairies and he began mass-marketing the friars’ cheese recipe, first under the name Jack’s cheese and later as Monterey Jack.

Colby cheese is another American invention. In 1885 Wisconsin cheese maker Joseph F. Steinwand started varying his production process for cheddar by washing the curds with cold water. The washing process cut down on the acidity of the cheese and gave it a milder flavor than regular cheddar. Steinwand named his creation after the nearby town of Colby, WI. Longhorn Colby refers to the size and cylindrical shape of the block the cheese comes in.

Pecorino comes from Pecora, the Italian word for sheep and this family of hard Italian sheep milk cheeses derives from it.

Hanne Nielson created Havarti cheese at her family’s farm in Øverød, just north of Copenhagen, during the mid-19th century. Nielson decided to create a Danish equivalent to Switzerland’s tasty cheeses and the buttery Havarti was the result of her experimentation. She named the cheese after the family’s farm, which was known as Havarthigaard.

Mozzarella takes its name from the diminutive of the word mozza, which in Neapolitan dialect means cut. Mozza in turn derives from the verb mozzare, which means to cut off. It refers to how the cheese is produced by cutting the curds and shaping them into the familiar ball shape.

American cheese gets its name from the British. When British colonists first came to North America, they brought their knowledge of cheddar production with them and began making cheese cheaply and in great volume. Colonists would ship the cheese back across the pond and sell it at discount prices. British shoppers did not love the quality of this 'Yankee cheddar' or 'American cheese', but since it was cheap, it sold well. By 1878, Americans were sending over 300 million pounds of cheese back to England every year.

Americans called it either yellow cheese or store cheese. During 1916 James L. Kraft patented a pasteurization process that stabilized cheese to allow for easy transport over long distances. The name American cheese stuck to to Kraft’s processed cheeses.