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May 13, 2010 05:40 AM

Aged Monterey Jack - who knew?

I'm generally a fan of strong cheeses (blues, aged goudas, the better triple cremes like Explorateur) and only occasionally buy monterey jack, mainly for melting on burritos and such. But I had an interesting experience yesterday - I found an unopened package of jack cheese in the fridge (Cabot brand, 10 oz shrink-wrapped stick) that I had bought a while back and forgotten about.

The "expiration date" on the package was February, so I'm guessing I must have bought it in December or January. I was going to toss it, but there was no visible mold, so I decided to cut into it and check it out first.

What a revelation! The biggest difference is in the texture - it has ripened into a semi-soft cheese, at room temperature actually spreadable. And the flavor has deepened, not in an "off" way, but somehow richer and more savory than any jack I've ever tasted. The only thing I can compare it to is a really soft Bom Petisco.

Has anyone else experienced this? I'm tempted to buy more and age it just to see if I can replicate this.

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  1. It's never happened to me due to the fact that we tend to totally empty the fridge for cleaning one every week or so plus I tend to wimp out and assume that anything past its sell by date is too dagerous to even try especially cheese (I've had to trow out so much expensive cheese that went bad long BEFORE it's sell by date that I tend to assume that anything that isn't still sealed in cryovac plastic has a lifespan of one or two days) Plus, our fridge is rather on the moist side so lost cheese is more likely to go moldy or racid than age.
    That being said there is prescedent for what happended to you. If you have ever read Steve Jenkins "The Cheese Primer" in the US section you will find mention of a cheese (mostly made on the west coast) called Teleme. This also starts as a more or less monetery jack like cheese, but when aged correctly turns into a fine semisoft or in this case (due to the higher fat content maybe) supersoft (a cheese that is basically liquid when ripe and is eaten by spooning or dipping) In fact, you may want to pick up the primer (you can find it in most bookstores, online and off), as there is a section where Jenkins gives step by step instruction on how to age Teleme which could be useful if you were trying to repeat on purpose what happened to you serendipitously. Another cheese similar migh be the Dutch Kernham ("Knife-sticker") which , according to legend , was created about 30 years ago when a cheemaker acidentally left a large batch of Roomkass (like gouda, but with added cream) curing at too high a temperature so that they turned into a flavorful semisoft that literally sticks to the knife (hence the name). hope something here is of use.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jumpingmonk

      I've had Teleme purchased from Murray's (although not in a very long time) in various stages of ripeness; when very ripe, it's scooped into containers. It's very nice when younger, too--very soft and the tiniest bit springy. Good stuff!

    2. Not with Jack but my dad used to send us aged Canadian Cheddar cheese - 5 or 7-yr-old - in 2 kg blocks and I have one of them aging further in the fridge (since Christmas 2002, he died in 2003). Apart from some slight surface molding it's in excellent shape. Saving it for a occasion yet to be determined. I have no compunctions about eating it, it's been kept cold its whole life. The oldest Cheddar I can remember eating was (store-aged) 20 yrs old - it gets softer and a bit grainier as it ages and is strong as hell but is delicious.
      I thought you were posting about dry Jack which is a cheese I wish were more widely available in the NY area, it's great on pasta and pretty much anywhere you'd use Parmesan.

      1. I had a Vermont Cheddar that was supposedly aged 12 years. It was way too much for me but they do age them for years. I've never had to throw out a hard cheese; just cut the mold off and eat it. But if it actually changed in consistency, texture and appearance, that might make me uneasy.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Shann

          I agree, this is unusual for a hard cheese - certainly I would not expect it of a cheddar, which gets stronger-flavored with age but stays a hard cheese. This jack's behavior is more like that of a brie, which is firm when fresh and softens as it ripens.

          1. re: BobB

            Just from the title of your post, I expected to read a description of aged, dry Jack, such as Vella's, and was surprised to hear of your experience. The brie-like texture is indeed like our Teleme once it has aged.

            Recently I had a raw milk jack that was aged as a wheel for more than 60 days and had a pebbly rind, made by Schoch Dairy of Salinas, California. The herd is purebred Holstein. This cheese had developed a richness and nutty nuances with a semi-soft texture that reminded me of Alpine cheeses. The cheesemonger who sold it to me said he had suggested that the name be changed to something else, as this cheese has little connection to what we think of as Jack cheese.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Interesing that it was Holstein, isn't their milk relatively low-fat? The cheese sounds lovely.

        2. For a real treat, try Vella Aged Jack. It's as comples as real Parm. You can order it grated and it's so dry that you don't have to refrigerate it. Great stuff to have on hand!

          1 Reply
          1. re: pikawicca

            Vella Dry Jack is one of America's great cheeses.

          2. I make my own cheese here at the dairy and seal it with a Game Pro. In order to sell it raw milk cheese must age for 6 months. I have not mastered the art and it is an art:)
            Just opened one last week that tasted quite like Havarti. Thanks for the post it will help me keep trying,

            2 Replies
            1. re: JustScattin2

              I thought the minimum aging time for raw milk cheese was 60 days.