It’s been a couple weeks since I returned from the American Cheese Society meeting in Montreal, Quebec and there are always a hundred things to take care of when you’ve been away from work for a week. It wasn’t until this weekend that I had the chance to reflect on the meeting.
During the week here at Tillamook I work with a great group of people who are responsible for directly supporting our farmers to ensure we have the highest quality milk available. In addition, our group is responsible for all the food safety and quality activities from farm to consumer. So, it may seem a bit odd that my weekends are often spent on my own farm making small batches of yogurt and cheese for friends and family. Anyhow, amongst the 5-gallon batches of Greek yogurt, gruyere and ricotta cheese I had in the works, I finally had time to sit down and share a bit about the American Cheese Society meeting.
First, it is extremely gratifying to see our team here at Tillamook recognized in the cheese competition. With 1676 different cheeses entered, to place in the top three positions in any category is exciting. We received 4 awards which included a first place for our Colby a mild cheese meant to be eaten soon after production. Colby is blended with Monterey Jack to make Colby Jack. It is fitting to win for Colby because we have already been recognized at the U. S. Championship Cheese Contest® for having America’s best Monterey Jack and Colby Jack. In addition, Oregon, with almost 40 different cheese factories currently in production, was well represented with a total of 9 awards received including a “best in show” for Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue This is the second time Rogue has won best in show in 3 years and if you haven’t tried their Blue cheeses you should, they are incredible.
Quebec was the perfect place to hold the meeting. Their cheese making tradition began in the mid-1600s and their history has been one of diversity both in scale of production as well as varieties of cheese produced. With the leadership of folks like David Gremmels, Christine Hyatt and many others, the American Cheese Society and the Oregon Cheese Guild are maintaining and reinvigorating the diversity and camaraderie that makes the cheese industry special. The end result for all of us cheese lovers is a growing availability of a lot of different cheeses to try. So while there should always be Tillamook cheese in your refrigerator, I would also encourage you to try some of the other great artisan cheeses made here in Oregon. We are pretty proud of our accomplishments.