5@5 - American cheeses to try right now
October 6th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

The label 'American cheese' gets a bad rap because of plastic-wrapped singles. Though some may argue the processed cheese slices are the necessary ingredient for the best grilled cheese sandwich, it's safe to say you won't see those slimy suckers flopping onto the cheese plate du jour any time soon.

But American cheese - American-made cheese, that is - isn't as flimsy as its made out to be. And fromager Dimitri Saad says it's about time our cheese plate is proud to be an American.

Five American-Made Cheeses to Try Right Now: Dimitri Saad

1. O’Banon, Capriole Dairy
"Located in southern Indiana, cheesemaker Judy Schad and her family bought the farm in 1976. They brought in their first goat the following year, and now maintain a self-sustaining herd of about 500. They make several award-winning cheeses. The O’Banon is an American twist on a French classic. This fresh and rindless goat cheese is wrapped in chestnut leaves that have been soaked in Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

It's creamy and tangy, getting denser as it ages, with a little kick from the bourbon. This cheese is a great start to your cheese plate.

Paired with cider-poached apples or pears, it’s the perfect combination to celebrate autumn."

2. Moses Sleeper, Jasper Hill Farm
"Andy and Mateo Kehler founded Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont, with the dual purpose of returning to the beautiful place where they spent their summers growing up and creating a value-added business that could help revive the ailing dairy industry in Vermont.

There are two sides to the business: the farm, which milks Ayrshire cows and produces five cheeses; and the Cellars - a 22,000 square foot underground facility with seven vaults where cheeses from several farms are aged and cared for until perfectly ripe, then packaged and shipped out. It is the first of its kind in the United States.

Named after a Revolutionary soldier from the area, Moses Sleeper is a soft-ripened, cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind (like Brie). Aged for three to six weeks, it is buttery and savory. Milder when younger, the vegetal, mushroomy flavors become more pronounced as it ages.

Paired with a crunchy yet sweet caramel popcorn, Moses Sleeper is bound to please even the most tentative guest."

3. Bossa, Green Dirt Farm
"Green Dirt Farm is a small farm dedicated to producing the best grass-fed, farmstead, sheep's milk cheeses. The farm is set in the Missouri River Valley, about 40 miles northwest of Kansas City, Missouri. The care with which they raise their sheep and the variability in the pastures as the seasons change is reflected in the selection of cheeses they make.

Bossa is a small, round, surface-ripened cheese. Washed in a brine solution, the white mold, which would result in a bloomy rind, is removed and replaced with the B.linens bacteria, resulting in an orange-colored rind with a distinctive aroma and flavor.

Musty and a little pungent, the result is an unctuous and gooey cheese with more meaty and savory flavors. Washed sheep’s milk cheeses are rare, even in Europe, and this one is delicious.

Paired with roasted mushrooms, the still soft yet more intense Bossa will prepare your palate for the stronger end of the cheese plate."

4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot Creamery
"You may already be familiar with cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery, but this cheddar is not like any of the ones you find shrink-wrapped on the shelves of your supermarket. In 2003, Cabot Creamery approached the Cellars at Jasper Hill and asked them to age a special batch of English-style clothbound cheddar. The result was an award-winning cheese and a relationship that has driven the economic model put forward by the Cellars.

Made from the milk from a single herd, the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar is a 35-pound wheel wrapped in cloth and aged for 10 to 14 months.

Firm and crumbly, it has more nutty, butterscotch and caramel flavors than other bandaged cheddars.

Paired with a whole-grain beer mustard, or even a nut brittle, this cheddar is a tasty transition from the pungent washed-rind to the spicy blue finale."

5. Rogue River Blue, Rogue Creamery
"Rogue Creamery was founded in the 1930s in Central Point, Oregon. After surviving the Great Depression and contributing to the war effort of World War II, the creamery began producing blue cheese in 1955 after a trip to France where the owner Tom Vella visited the Roquefort Association.

Upon his return, he designed a building which successfully recreated the atmosphere of the limestone caves of Cambalou where Roquefort is aged. The result has been a string of award-winning artisan blue cheeses. The Rogue River Blue is arguably the best example, having won Best-of-Show at the American Cheese Society Competition in 2009 and 2011.

This cheese is made with late-season milk produced after the autumnal equinox. At this time, the cows graze on grasses renewed by cooler temperatures and make milk that is richer and higher in butterfat. After maturation, the cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves from Carpenter Hill Vineyard which have been macerated in Clear Creek Pear Brandy. Available for a limited time each year, get your hands on this cheese while you can.

Paired with pear butter, or some apple chips, this blue cheese will complete any cheese plate and end the meal on a high note."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Cheese • Dishes • Think

soundoff (78 Responses)
  1. Snake

    Excellent list, but how can you make a list of great American cheese and neglect Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam?

    October 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  2. nickyjane

    I had some of the clothbound cheddar from Cabot last week. It is amazing!! We had some for snacking and then I made a baked cheddar bacon mac and cheese which was fabulous as well.

    October 10, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  3. JininTexas

    Cougar Gold from the Washington State University's creamery is my favorite.

    October 9, 2011 at 9:17 am |
  4. Andyman

    Yes to Rogue Creamery (and also Humbodlt Fog). Another one I have enjoyed very much for it's delicious sharp goodness and texture is Rumiano's dried Monterey jack. Normally jack cheese is spongy and can be unappealing as such, but the dried wheels take on a depth and richness which is just fabulous, with a nice peppery rind as well. You can also grate it and sub for parm, romano, etc...

    October 8, 2011 at 2:49 am |
  5. SES

    Thanks for the article. Any list has limits, so thanks even more for the intelligent responses that suggest alternatives. I always view this kind of article as merely the starting point to some other great ideas.

    October 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  6. Chuck

    There are many, many amazing, wonderful cheeses made in America these days. If the four others on this list are as good as the Rogue River Blue, then this is a good list of just five of the many great American Cheeses.

    October 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  7. Joe

    Well, believe it or not, there are many great cheeses being made in Alabama and Georgia, including prize winners in national and international tastings. Southern living had an article a while back and we ordered several and they were all fantastic.

    October 7, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • marti

      Yes! Like Belle Chevre goat cheese in Alabama....

      October 11, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  8. Lauren

    You have totally missed out on NorCal cheese – Truffle Tremor by Cypress Grove (actually anything by Cypress Grove like Humboldt Fog) is pretty freakin cheesetastic. And I'm a California Badger who spent time living in France and Spain, so really I should know. And to Jeff, if you think WI is played out- then you must be a Buckeye and for that I feel VERY SORRY for you :)

    October 7, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • czerendipity

      Humboldt Fog is AMAZING! Glad someone else loves it too.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:35 am |
    • CalSC

      Humboldt Fog is my favorite cheese in the world. Hands down. They also missed out on Cowgirl Creamery cheeses! Where's the NorCal love??

      October 7, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
  9. JB

    Was just at an artisan cheese festival in Nashville last weekend and there are some fantastic cheeses coming out of Asheville, NC. A local fresh pasta shop here, Lazzarolli's, pairs the Rogue River mentioned here with figs in a ravioli stuffing. One of the best things I've ever eaten.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  10. Coopc3

    Mississippi State University produce excellent cheese as well as muscadine wine.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Grape Ape

      The cheese are probably delicious. Muscadine wine is a muddy, musky tasting mess no matter where it's produced.

      October 11, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  11. microbe

    I'm prepared to be suprised,, but I always thought Wisconsin cheeses were mass produced and average. Great for mac and cheese and so forth but not for an artisnan cheese plate. I'll try some not available in the regular supermarket if anyone will suggest some. Love the upstate NY cheddars and the Humboldt Fog goat.

    October 7, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  12. Santa Claus

    What about Velveeta?

    This list blows reindeer

    October 7, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • chefdugan

      Not Velveeta, Cheez Whiz! The suggested pairings these people came up with made me gag. A good cheese and caremel corn? Their taste buds have move from their mouth to you know where.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Elton John

      I blow reindeer and Rocket Man.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  13. jessica

    At least two if these cheeses are less than $25 a pound. There are amazing cheeses beyond the cheddar realm. Try them!

    October 7, 2011 at 5:08 am |
  14. English Cheese Master

    American Cheese? I didnt know such a thing existed? Why do we have to put 'American' before the word Cheese? Is it to try an pull the 'cheese cloth' over people's eyes when we have just stolen cheese from around the world and passed it off as our own? ps. you can't call cheese Cheddar unless the milke used to produce it has come from South West England's Cheddar Gorge, i am asking the EU to put a stop to the bastardization of the word Cheddar immediately. I am visiting Brussels to discuss this topic today. Long live English Cheese

    October 7, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  15. Bret

    I'm just glad we finally have a market for all these great American cheeses.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  16. ADH_in_WIS

    Speaking of cheese and not mentioning Wisconsin is similar to talking about the "THE BEST BUILT AMERICAN CARS" and forgetting about Detroit, or revealing the dirtiest cities in the US and failing to mention New York. You don't get it! To the author of this article. did you do ANY real research at all or did you simply rely on the free samples you requested from the various dairies and cheese stores? Did Wisconsin not send you enough free cheese? We can send more if it means you will attempt to ACTUALLY put a little thought and research into this article. I could send you some homemade cheese that is better than 3 of the cheeses you mentioned, and I am not even a cheese maker. Do you need free cheese there buddy?

    October 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • Brian

      Wow someone is getting quite riled up over cheese. I think an earlier poster's explanation is a good one. Perhaps Wisconsin cheese was left off because this isn't a list of the best american cheeses, but cheeses people should try. You can interpret that as "lesser known" cheeses.

      Or you could just accept that people have different opinions, and the article wasn't even claiming these 5 were the best american cheeses...Either way, you should just chill out a bit.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Milia

      Have some class. You didn't have to blast the author, you could have just informed us about specific cheeses in Wisconsin. Is this how you talk to people around you? Just because you post on the internet doesn't mean that the rest of perusing boards benefits from snitty attacks.

      October 6, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • Brian A.

      Find me a list of dirtiest cities in the US where NYC is even in the top 10. Go ahead, I'll wait.

      October 7, 2011 at 10:58 am |
      • ADH_in_WIS

        You didnt have to wait long Spanky, did you?

        "A list of the most filthiest cities in America has been compiled by Travel and Leisure magazine"

        1. New Orleans
        2. Philadelphia
        3. Los Angeles
        4. Memphis
        5. New York
        6. Baltimore
        7. Las vegas
        8. Miami
        9. Atlanta
        10. Houston

        Hmmm – what do you know?

        October 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Grape Ape@ADH_in_WIS

      Your screen name have been ADHD_in_WIS. I agree with the nice people above: chill.
      If you can imagine a different perspective, it's good that the article didn't include Wis cheese. Most people already know it exists and that it's good cheese. I was happy to learn that all "America cheese" isn't individually wrapped and mass produced by Kraft.

      October 11, 2011 at 7:36 am |
  17. Lucy

    I can't believe you guys didn't mention Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Brian

      That is another one I would put on my list for sure.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  18. Linda

    How about an article on how we can afford these wonderful cheeses. I'll never be able to taste any of them.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • ADH_in_WIS

      You should do a little looking around the web and order the BEST cheese in the USA from a Wisconsin cheese store. They will ship anywhere, and our prices in this state ( for cheese anyway ) are a really good deal. We do not feel being snooty and charging like its gold will make our cheese taste any better to you, because its teh best already!

      October 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • ADH_in_WIS

      Here is just one example. AWESOME cheddar starting at $5.95 a pound and going up depending on age!


      October 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • czerendipity

      They aren't THAT expensive.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:37 am |
      • Linda

        Everything is expensive when you're on a ramon noodle diet.

        October 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm |
  19. Brian

    Beecher's Flagship Reserve Cheddar from Seattle. It blows every single other cheddar out of the water.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Chris

      +1 for the Flagship. Best American cheese I've tasted. Definitely my favorite cheddar.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
      • Brian

        Just mentioning it is making me hungry. I'm actually going out right now to get some :)

        October 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  20. Clark Nova

    Are any of the cheeses named available at lest than $30/lb? Didn't think so. Why isn't San Francisco style dry aged Monterey Jack on the list? Too affordable? Not Yuppie enough?

    October 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  21. Grace

    NYS has some splendidl extra, XXXXX sharp cheddar but it is hard to find. We used to get it at the Waterwheel Cheese House just west of Saratoga. Recently I've become a huge fan of California's Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, although all of their cheese that I've had is wonderful.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  22. Cheesy

    The best & tastiest cheese is the Government cheese I get every week.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  23. cheesehound

    disclaimer: I don't live in Wisconsin. There are 49 'Master Cheese Makers' in the US, and all of them are in Wisconsin. Most of the best cheeses you won't find in retails stores. Sold primarily to East & West coast restaurants and to Europe. Tour the state to find the best – among which are Marieke' Feoenegreek Gouda, Carr Valley 10-yr old cheddar. Too numerious to mention. Then take a detour over to Faribault, MN, cheese caves for a fabulous bleu – St Pete's Select.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Dave Rable

      For those who want stinky cheese, try Liederkranz. It's back after an absence of 25 years!

      October 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
    • Richard

      Carr Valley Cheese (Wisconsin)...some of the best I've had...and I've had cheese from all over the world. Though one of my favorites is the Shephard's Blend, most of the blends–sheep / goat / cow–are award winning!

      October 6, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  24. mike21954

    The Cabot Clothbound – mmmm.

    October 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  25. Juan

    Beechers is from Seattle, my all time favorite!

    October 6, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
  26. Great

    Although some of these sound great, award winning, whether it's for restaurants, authors, foods or anything else, is so overused as to be meaningless. If there are enough categories every entrant gets an award.

    October 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  27. Paul Sherman

    Great list but incomplete without DINAH's from Kurtwood Farms, Vashon WA

    October 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  28. scotdog

    look for sally jackson wa state goat cheese

    October 6, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  29. NoQuarter

    Good list, but the glaring omission here is Tillamook extra sharp cheddar, as well as their smoked cheddar.

    October 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Clark Nova

      If you ever smelled the air in Tillamook, you'd never touch one of their cheeses again.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  30. Michael

    Wisconsin's absence from this list is an automatic credibility killer.

    October 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Grape Ape@Michael

      Why? I'm sure there are tons of American cheeses that weren't mentioned. If you post an article, you can write all you want about Wis cheese, but who do you think is going to find it informative? As stated above, most people already know Wis cheese exists and that it's good cheese. Some of us would rather read about things we don't already know. It's often referred to as learning.

      October 11, 2011 at 7:42 am |
  31. Joe

    I with the Wisconsin crowd on this. There is an international cheese competition every year held in different coutries, WIsconsin based cheese makers are well represented every year. The Wisconsin cheese artisans make cheeses with the same care and craftsmanship as any european cheese maker.

    Also having milked a cow in Wisconsin, I know happy cows come from Wisconsin, NOT California.

    October 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  32. MC

    I think that when most people in the US think of American cheese, outside of the processed sort, they think of Wisconsin. The state is renowned for the excellent cheeses it produces. My impression of the author's intent was to introduce us to unusual and lesser known American cheeses. I do not take it as a slight to Wisconsin, but really a nod to the fact the quality there is already well known.

    Thank you to the authors for introducing some of the unexpected. My own addition would have to be the artisan cheese from Landaff Creamery in NH which is also aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill. I am not an expert or anything but it is one my favorite locally produced items!

    October 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  33. caroline

    For all of you cheese connoisseurs out there, there's actually a small creamery in the state of Washington that makes great cheese! It's a creamery run by the school [Washington State University] whose proceeds go to funding the School of Food Sciences, scholarships, and student-run jobs. I used to work for direct marketing at their annex and people from everywhere ordered it and had some strange loyalty to it – we even had quite a few loyal customers from wisconsin <3

    if you want to try it here's a link to their website! http://public.wsu.edu/creamery/

    October 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Go COUGS

      The place is called Ferdinand's and it's the home of Cougar Gold, the best American cheese made, period.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Not so much

      Its a little strong and a bit salty. I wouldnt ea itt on anything. The cheese seems like its meant to be eaten just as is.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
  34. Daniel

    Point Reyes Blue is the American cheese for me.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

      I saw a whale at Point Reyes...has nothing to do with food.

      October 6, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
  35. LuvCheese

    I'm always open to trying new cheese, especially those recommended by others. For those who know great cheeses, please name-drop here. Provide enough info for me to find it (a cheese maker can probably be found with a keyword search). Give your cheese at least as much visibility as the author's recommendations.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  36. jim

    The rougue creamery's spin on the green grass making the cows produce more butterfat is funny. Heat causes cows to chew the cud less making less butterfat. They produce more butterfat in winter and spring too.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • MBob

      Yes, which is why they say the cooler temperatures after the Autumn equinox make milk with higher butterfat.

      "made with late-season milk produced after the autumnal equinox. At this time, the cows graze on grasses renewed by cooler temperatures and make milk that is richer and higher in butterfat"

      October 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
  37. Levi

    My favorite is fermunda

    October 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  38. Madasa

    How about ericholder cheese? It may look creamy, but it's full of indigestible bits ...

    October 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  39. Scott

    Hey CNN, you forgot an amazing dairy right in your back yard! Sweetgrass dairies and their cheeses have been a staple at many Atlanta restaurants for quite a while now!

    October 6, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  40. Jessica

    Having grown up in Wisconsin and now lived in various states around the U.S., I can still say that the best American cheeses I have had have come from small, independent cheesemakers in Wisconsin. This is actually offensive to me that this list doesn't have even one Wisconsin cheese.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • caroline

      There's a creamery operated at Washington State University, I used to work for direct marketing there and a lot of people from Wisconsin say it's the best cheese they've ever had. It's called the cougar gold. I'm not saying Wisconsin cheese is sub-par, but I think you'd like to try it!

      October 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
      • Go COUGS

        Ferdinand's – the makers of Cougar Gold, the best American cheese made, period.

        October 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  41. Cheeselover

    Beechwood Cheese is some of the creamiest and hottest cheese I've ever had! They have like 30 flavors. I think its screamin mimi or extreme heat...Great curd days too!

    October 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  42. Sweetd

    clearly you hate wisconsin Chef Z too bad

    October 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
    • ChefZ

      No, I don't hate Wisconsin. But I have tried countless varieties of cheese from around the country that are far better than many of the cheeses I have had in Wisconsin.

      October 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  43. Sweetd

    I agree David!!!! JUst think about the 8 year old cheddar you guys missed for just one example. Wisconsin rules all others get in line

    October 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  44. ChefZ

    Any one that automatically refers to Wisconsin when talking about cheese needs to expand their palate and try some of the other amazing cheeses made in the USA. I would put the Rogue Blue against ANY Wisconsin cheese ANY day.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      I agree, everything in Wisconsin is played out. EVERYTHING....

      October 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Bunkpuster

      Pssh, hipster.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  45. David

    Any American cheese list that does not include the great state of Wisconsn is clearly flawed.

    October 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Trixie

      Are you speaking of those unattractive Wedge Hats?

      October 6, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
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