Everything you need to know about National Cheese Day – NBC New York

From a simple grilled cheese sandwich to a fancy charcuterie platter, cheese has the power to enhance almost any meal. Today, with thousands of varieties of cheese available, including delicious dairy-free options, there’s never been a better time to be a cheese lover.

If you need an excuse to celebrate your love of cheese, then National Cheese Day, celebrated every June 4, is for you. First established in 1914 in Monroe, Wisconsin, this holiday began as a way to encourage tourism featuring everyone’s favorite dairy product. Today, this festival lasts an entire weekend and welcomes more than a hundred thousand visitors, not to mention the world’s largest polka dance, multiple parades and Emmental’s beloved mascot, Wedgie.

The history of cheese

Today, cheese is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. But who deserves the credit for inventing this delicious dairy product? The truth is that there are still many unanswered questions about the origins of cheese.

According to the University of Tennessee, the earliest records describing the cheese-making process are written on proto-cuneiform clay tablets dating to 4,000 BCE and found in southern Mesopotamia. But cheese was probably enjoyed thousands of years earlier in various parts of the world.

Some have argued, based on milk fat residues found in ancient pots found in western Anatolia, that cheese was enjoyed as early as 7,000 BCE. However, it is also very possible that these jars were simply used to store milk and not cheese.

Other early evidence of cheesemaking, according to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, includes the depiction of cheese in ancient Egyptian tomb wall paintings, references to cheese in ancient Greek mythology, and Neolithic ceramic sieves presumably used for separating the curds from the whey during the cheese-making process. Early cheeses could have been produced by combining acidic fruit juice and milk or by storing the milk in containers made from animal stomachs. Both practices would curdle the milk, creating curds and whey.

According to the BBC, around 2018, the cheese community was shaken by the discovery of what is now considered the oldest cheese in the world. The “solidified whitish mass”, found in broken jars in an ancient Egyptian tomb, has been identified as cheese made from sheep and goat’s milk. Its age – 3,200 years – makes it the oldest known example of cheese. However, it is not yet known what it tastes like.

How to celebrate National Cheese Day

Since testing the taste of ancient cheeses probably isn’t an option for most people, what’s the best way to enjoy National Cheese Day? One option might be to host a cheese-themed potluck where each guest is invited to bring a unique cheese-based recipe. The options are endless: savory baked feta, gooey mac and cheese, halloumi fries and strawberry cheesecake could be some of the various dishes gracing your table.

If your friends don’t like cooking, another fun way to celebrate National Cheese Day is to host a fondue party. If the classic cheese used in fondue is Gruyère, you can also melt other Swiss cheeses or different additions according to your preferences. For dessert, extend the cheese flavor with a refreshing fruit and cream cheese dip. And don’t forget the time-honored tradition of creating a punishment for anyone who loses their bread in the fondue: kissing the person to their right, performing a silly dare, or doing the dishes are all appropriate punishments.

Types of Cheese and Perfect Pairings

Around the world, thousands of varieties of cheese are enjoyed in countless ways. It would be impossible to list all the cheese dishes eaten in different cuisines, but here are some well-known types of cheese.

Paneer or paneer: Paneer, usually made from buffalo or cow’s milk, is a soft but dense cheese that is popular in South Asia and around the world. A satiating vegetarian source of protein, it’s the star of savory dishes like palak paneer and mattar paneer. It can also be enjoyed in sweets such as chamcham and sandesh.

Brie and Camembert: These are two distinct types of cheese that both have a soft, runny body contained within the rind. Thanks to their creamy texture, perfect for spreading on crackers, Brie and Camembert are often central elements of charcuterie boards. They can also be baked, seasoned and served as a starter.

Ricotta: Just like its down-to-earth cousin, cottage cheese, ricotta can be spread on crusty bread and topped with fresh vegetables for a flavorful, creamy snack. Ricotta is also a central ingredient in Italian dishes like lasagna and cannoli.

Feta: Whether you toss it in a salad, sprinkle it on a shakshuka, or add it to an omelet, it’s hard to go wrong with this salty, savory Greek cheese. Long before baked feta pasta went viral on TikTok, feta was a featured ingredient in spanakopita, or savory spinach tart, and tiropita, or cheese tart.

Labneh or labna: A popular Middle Eastern cheese with a consistency similar to yogurt, labneh can be enjoyed with pita and a little olive oil. It is often served as mezze, which is a selection of small appetizer dishes that may include olives, rice-stuffed grape leaves, and salads.

Cream Cheese: Enjoy it on a smoked salmon bagel, use it to make frosting on Red Velvet cupcakes, or bake the cheesecake of your dreams: cream cheese can do it all. Its fancier relative, mascarpone, is the main ingredient in tiramisu and many cheesecake recipes.

Cheddar: Affordable yet flavorful, cheddar is often used as an inexpensive substitute in recipes that call for more expensive cheeses like Gouda or Havarti. While it’s easy to dismiss cheddar as boring, its versatility can’t be ignored. It’s a staple of everyday favorites like mac and cheese, cheeseburgers, and chili.

Nerdy innovations

Although cheese has been around for thousands of years, it seems humans have yet to exhaust its potential. Recent years have seen impressive progress in the development of dairy-free cheeses, allowing vegans and anyone who doesn’t consume dairy to join in on the fun. Freeze-dried cheeses, another modern innovation, have become a hit with hikers because these cheese products do not need to be refrigerated.

Finally, growing discussions about sustainability in the dairy industry have prompted some manufacturers to adopt greener practices, such as pursuing carbon neutrality, implementing recycled packaging, and even switching to livestock feeds that reduce methane emissions.

Final Thoughts

From Asiago to Zamorano, it seems like one day isn’t enough to celebrate all the types of cheeses and the many ways to enjoy them. But if you’re looking for a truly unique way to celebrate National Cheese Day, why not grab the cheesecloth and try making your own cheese? Even if you have to throw away what you produce, who knows, maybe it will be discovered in a few thousand years.

Kristen Wood is a photographer, food writer and creator of MOON and Spoon and Yum. She is also the author of Vegetarian Family Cookbook, Fermented Hot Sauce Cookbook, and Hot Sauce Cookbook for Beginners. Her work has been featured in various online and print publications, including Elle, Martha Stewart, Forbes, Chicago Sun-Times and more.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *