The first settlers to the American colonies brought with them cheese-making traditions honed for over one thousand years from around the world. As the young nation grew and expanded west, so too did its dairy traditions. First in New York and Vermont, then Ohio, and eventually, Wisconsin.
All of those newly created traditions were nearly wiped out, however, when the Industrial Revolution swept the Western world, propagating the factory cheese model first introduced in New York state in 1851. The resulting cheese was driven by yield over quality, and the result was American cheese becoming a global embarrassment. The World Wars of the 20th century created a demand for European styled cheeses made here in America, which spawned a wave of new producers. But the artisan movement did not truly gain momentum until the late 1970s, when European cheese makers finally recovered and began exporting high quality cheese to US urban markets, and also started demanding control over the names of their historical cheeses.
Inspired by the 1960s back-to-the-earth movement and with a desire to create artisanal cheese in the U.S., folks migrated to farms and started practicing traditional cheesemaking methods. By the end of the 1980s, this growing number of artisan producers banded together to form the American Cheese Society, determined to protect and celebrate our own unique cheesemaking heritage. American ingenuity began to evolve the traditional recipes, and regional variations on tried and true styles began to take shape. Fast forward 30 years, and we are living in a Golden Age for American cheese. And Earth Fare’s Specialty Buyers are ever on the hunt for the next wave of American artisan producers.
Here’s a list of some of our very favorite American artisan cheese selections – but we sure to keep an eye out for our always expanding selection:
- Vella Cheese Company’s Dry Jack: A true masterpiece of American cheese-making, this Dry Jack is aged for seven to ten months. Firm, pale, and sweetly nutty, it’s a great cheese for grating, shredding, cooking, or just plain snacking.
- Deer Creek’s The Robin: The quintessential Colby cheese, this classic yellow cheese is handcrafted in Wisconsin and will bring back fond memories of childhood. The Robin is firm, yet open with a curdy body, a fresh buttery taste, and a pleasantly salty finish. You haven’t tasted Colby cheese until you’ve tasted the Robin.
- Beehive Cheese Company’s Smoked Rosemary Promontory: Exclusive to Earth Fare, this Promontory is made from the milk of Jersey cows from a small dairy farm located near the Great Salt Lake in Utah. This cheese has a full-bodied texture with snappy fruit notes and a hint of rosemary. It’s then given q quick cold smoke to add savory depth. Shave it on top of a salad or melt over roasted chicken, then pair it with a spicy red wine, a crisp white wine, or an ale.
- Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog: This soft-ripened goat cheese, made with buttermilk and fresh cream, is handcrafted and features a distinctive ribbon of edible vegetable ash, complemented with floral notes, herbaceous overtones, and a clean citrus finish. Enjoy it with a drizzle of honey, alongside prosciutto, tart apples and almonds, or crumbled atop baby greens with roasted beets and a simple vinaigrette.
- Meadow Creek’s Appalachian Tomme: This cheese was delicately developed to complement milk cultivated in the mountainous terrain of southwest Virginia. A lightly cooked, pressed-curd cheese age for ninety days, it has a lush, vibrant taste of cream and butter with a mushroomy earthiness. This cheese melts beautifully over bread and makes an excellent feature on a cheese plate.