Early last fall Gary and I went on a wine tasting adventure through the Northwest – Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley and Canada’s Oakanagan. Our first stop along the way was a visit with my friend David Adelsheim at his winery in Willamette Valley. As David and I were chatting Gary picked up a local publication and immediately became fascinated by one of the featured articles. Cougar Gold, a crumbly cheddar cheese made from real milk created on the campus of Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. We asked David about it and he confirmed that it is an incredibly tasty cheese, sold in what looks like a large tuna can that can be aged for many months unopened. He said he had a few cans hanging out in the back of his refrigerator. The only cheese I had ever had in a can was processed and served out of a aerosal can. We proceeded to look every where for the cheese throughout our two week journey through Oregon, Washington and Canada, to no avail.
We came home and did some research on Cougar Gold. In the 1930′s the Creamery on the Washington State campus wanted to find different ways to store cheese. Plastic wrapping had not been invented yet and wax packaging cracked, creating contamination. Campus research concluded that a can was the best way to store cheese without contamination. To this day the funds raised by selling Cougar Gold helps the student body of Washington State University, and the creamery continues their research and educational efforts in Food Science with WSU students.
About a month ago our Fed Ex driver had a special perishable delivery. Gary had ordered some Cougar Gold from the Washington State campus. Last Tuesday was finally the day to open it. Gary had ordered a few different varieties to try, we started with the Smoky Cheddar cheese. Incredibly dense, rich and creamy with good smoked hickory flavors. From what we understand, the longer the cheese ages the more it will become like parmesan with crystals running throughout. This effect was just starting in our can. We could only try a bit, as it is so rich, but the flavor is incredible. Other flavors include Sweet Basil, Hot Pepper, Dill Garlic and Crimson Fire. Next up for us is the Sweet Basil, likely to be served in a Caprese style salad…who would have thought that cheese in a can could be so good.