For years (my formative years to be exact) my notion, shared with many other consumers, of American cheese were those Kraft American Singles, stacked symmetrically in 64-sliced towers, that always seemed to be at the ready in everyone’s fridge. They were dependable, simple, particularly vibrant, and they seemingly never, ever, went bad (some would argue that they started out bad). They were the populist’s notion of America at its cheesiest.
We have since progressed well beyond this limited definition of American cheese (at least many of us have). Sure those bright orange singles still exist and are bought up at a regular basis, but so are pounds and pounds of other unique and distinctly American cheeses that have expanded our notion of what American cheese could, and should, be.
October marks the 2nd annual American Cheese Month, which is essentially a way to raise awareness for the myriad of domestic cheese styles, and combat the dominant paradigm (Kraft American Singles). Here are a few of my personal favorites (no, I am not being paid to endorse anything, I just like American cheeses):
Grafton from the cheese kingdom of Vermont does a lot of cheeses, and while all of them are pretty stellar, their Cave-Aged Clothbound Cheddar is really something to seek out. All of their cheeses are made with raw milk from Vermont, which provides a grassy, somewhat pungent, quality.
This is a washed-rind old world Gouda made in Wisconsin and aged quite nicely. It holds a complex array of flavors, which include a hint of sweetness and toffee. This Gouda comes in an assortment of flavors, but I prefer the smoked or plain for their simplicity.
For those of you not in the know, Humboldt Fog may be the most divine domestically produced cheese available. The cheese, in its whole form, looks like a layer cake (see above pic) but tastes like the most beautiful tangy goat cheese one could hope for.
What are some of your favorite American cheeses? Do you still harbor some affection for the plain American Singles?