Colby Cheese

Cheeses from the USA usually conjure up images of Monterrey Jack and various cheddars which come wrapped in cellophane but there is one, just like a cheddar, that deserves special mention – Colby Cheese or Colby Swiss Cheddar.

Back in Colby, Wisconsin, 1874, Joseph F. Steinwand is supposed to have identified a way of producing his own Cheddar at his father’s cheese producing factory. Colby was a young town, barely three years old, when Ulysses S. Grant was the US President.

The cheese is a semi-hard, open type which is milder, slightly softer than conventional cheddar. It requires about a gallon of milk to create one pound of cheese. In fact it is prepared by the conventional cheddaring method but diverges from this process using the washed-curd process. Here water replaces whey during the cooking step which reduces the curd’s acidity making the proteins less rigid and tangy, in fact quite elastic and producing the mild flavour. As the cheese ages, it cracks as it dries so it is usually eaten relatively fresh. The cheese is cut into half rounds and rectangles.

The cheese is said to be best eaten with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wines.

Unlike Monterey Jack, Colby cheese is almost the same except that it is coloured yellow/orange with annatto giving it a sweet nutty flavour. There is a type called Longhorn which is a cylindrical variant.

Sadly, the cheese is no longer produced at Colby but they do celebrate it in the annual cheese festival around mid-July. It is manufactured now by Pinconning Cheese Co.


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