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The reputation of American cheeses has developed significantly in recent times, with produce from the country grabbing attention at various awards. Recently an American cheese scooped the top accolade for the first time at the World Cheese Awards. Rogue River Blue, created by Rogue Creamery in Oregon, took the crown at the event which saw a record-breaking 3,804 cheeses from 42 countries being judged.
The 260-strong judging team included Mary Quicke of Devon-based cheesemaker Quicke’s, whose own cheeses landed a Gold and three Silver honours at the awards. Mary commented, “American cheese has changed out of all recognition. Of course you can still find plenty of dull cheese in hamburgers, cheese slices, cold pack (don’t ask). At the top end, though, there is some extraordinary cheese. When I first started judging cheese in the States nine years ago, there were four cheeses I thought arrogantly. ‘Bless, they are beginning to get the hang of this’. This year when I judged, there was world-class cheese after world-class cheese. The artisan cheese world is well supported by the American Cheese Society who run the Judging and Competition which gives great feedback, their Certified Cheese Professional Program (which inspired our Academy of Cheese) and also by an academic establishment keen to elevate American cheese.”
The accolades don’t stop there, as at the International Cheese & Dairy Awards in Nantwich 2019, Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont won the Reserve Supreme Champion prize, which saw judges cast their votes on over 5,000 different cheeses.
Sarah Stewart, a director at Neal’s Yard Dairy says, “I don’t believe there is specifically more interest in American cheese [than before], we did get a number of enquires about Rogue River Blue after the World Cheese Awards but we also got a number of enquires about Pitchfork, a Cheddar made by the Trethowan’s in Somerset that did very well at the World Cheese Awards too. Probably what has changed in the last decade or so is the quality of what is being produced by some of the cheesemakers in the US, and they are quite rightly getting recognition for that. Producers like Uplands, Jasper Hill and Rogue River, for example. Being present at events such as the Slow Food Cheese in Bra, Italy is helping to introduce the public outside the US to those cheeses. And lastly, the Fine Cheese Company who is coordinating the import of these specialist American Cheeses into the UK means that people interested in trying them can actually get hold of them now.”
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