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California Cheese making began in the 1750s, when Spanish Missionary Father Junipero Serra introduced dairy cows and cheesemaking to the state's settlers and natives. California's population swelled as tales of the gold rush drew new settlers from across the nation. In the fallout of this population boom, many fell into the dairy industry and the California Cheese making industry grew. In 1860 California boasted 100,000 head of dairy cattle, which is remarkable considering that only three years earlier the first commercial dairy opened.
This history of California Cheese making has continued to present day. In 1993, California's milk production reached an astonishing 25 billion pounds, making California the United States' leading milk producer. California Cheese is now a part of every major cheese event, featuring award winning dairies like Cypress Grove, Fiscalini, Vella, Point Reyes, and Bellwether Farms.
Types of California Cheese
Perhaps the best known California Cheese is Monterey Jack. The "Monterey" part of its name comes from town of Monterey, on the shore of central California, near the famous Pebble Beach golf course. The "Jack" is from David Jacks, the first to market this California Cheese in the early 1900s. The recipe came from his Swiss and Portuguese dairy employees, who based it on cheeses from old Spanish Mission recipes. Jack production has been taken on by other states and countries, however, California still produces more Monterey Jack Cheese than any other state.
Thanks to California's diverse terrain and climates, cows, goats, and sheep all flourish in there. This geography allows for a wide range of California Cheese styles. California Cheese accounts for almost a quarter of all the cheese produced in the USA, using up 47% of California's milk production just to produce California's Cheeses. There's no shortage of award-winning California Cheese either, and with more than 50 cheesemakers producing 250 different varieties and styles of cheese, those accolades show no sign of slowing down.
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