Sep 25, 2012

Cheeses of the World - Part Ten
Monterey Jack

Monterey Jack is a semi-hard American cows' milk cheese from California. The softer types, aged for only about a month, have a mild, buttery flavour and are a light creamy or white colour. Aged varieties, also know as dry Jack, have a firm texture and a sharp, fuller flavour.

It is widely believed that Monterey Jack is descended from the semi-hard cheeses made by the Romans, who passed the recipe on to Spanish Franciscan friars. When some of these friars immigrated to Mexico, in an area that later became California, they brought their cheese-making skills with them and taught cheese-making to local farmers. From here the story of how the cheese became known as Monterey Jack is a little fuzzy.

Some believe a woman named Doña Juana Cota de Boronda developed the cheese and sold it to a man named David Jack, whose name was used to market it. Others agree that while Doña de Boronda may have developed this cheese, it got its name from the cheese press she used called a jack. And still others believe that David Jacks was a cheese maker in California who mass marketed a cheese that was known as Jack's Monterey cheese, which eventually became Monterey Jack.

A fascinating essay on the true origins of this cheese can be found HERE. Another very well thought out article concerning the origins of Monterey Jack can be found HERE as well.

Monterey Jack is produced in small wheels, usually around eight pounds. They're soaked in brine for several days and then air-dried. The softer types are aged for one to two months while the firmer types are aged for six months to a year.

One of the unique properties of this cheese is its low levels of tyramine, which is the compound found in most cheeses that's associated with headaches. For this reason Monterey Jack is recommended for migraine sufferers.

There are many different varieties of Monterey Jack. It's sometimes combined with Colby to make Colby-Jack. Different peppers can be added during processing to create Pepper Jack or Jalepeño Jack. There's also an aged version known as Dry Jack that can be grated and used in much the same way as Parmesan.

Monterey Jack can be used in toasted cheese sandwiches, soufflés, salads, omelettes, pasta, rice, soups or tacos. It also goes well with fruit and wine, or all by itself. Of course, you can also enjoy it by itself.


San Antonio Chicken Roll Ups
Black Bean and Corn With Monterey Jack Cheese Salad
Mexican Cheddar-Monterey Jack Cheese Dip
Quiche Supreme Salsa Chicken Meatloaf
Monterey Pasta Bake Spicy Chipotle Turkey Wraps
Amarillo Cheese Fries
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Taco Casserole
Jack Baked Eggs
Monterey Fish Pie

If you'd like to try making Monterey Jack Cheese at home, you can find detailed, step-by-step instructions HERE.
I also found a really great 20 minute video of the process at Grow and Make, which also sells kits for making cheese.

If you're in the U.S. you can purchase your Monterey Jack Cheese on-line from the Vella Cheese Company
In Canada you can purchase it from our friends at Springbank Cheese

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