Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June is Dairy Month -- New York is a Big Cheese

While New York state is the champ when it comes to yogurt production, it isn't to shabby in the cheese department either.

New York has been a leader in cheese making for years -- 161 years to be exact. It was in 1851 that Jesse Williams of Rome, NY opened the first commercial cheese factory in the United States. Sure, cheese had been made for ages before, but always by individuals on dairy farms.

Photo of the Williams cheese factory. From the Oneida County Historical Society website
Williams found a way to take large quantities of milk and make large quantities of cheese at one time.  According to the Oneida County Historical Society website, "After his cheese factory became successful in 1851, his fame spread throughout the land. Soon, factories, following his design, were built in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio and countries in Europe, including a large number in France.  Fifteen years later, 500 cheese factories were operating in New York state alone.

"By 1864, Rome had become the cheese-making capital of the world and that year cheese makers from throughout the country met in Rome and formed the New York State Cheese Manufacturers Association."

So, you see, New York is a big cheese. And it remains so today.

The Empire State is not the leading cheese manufacturer in the United States, but it does well. According to 2011 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin is the leader in cheese production, followed by California, Idaho, New Mexico and then New York.

But New York does hold the top spot in production of one very particular type of cheese. We are the leaders in cottage cheese and have been for many years. The April 2013 report on cheese production for all of 2012 showed a nearly 1 percent increase in the amount of cottage cheese made -- a total of 315 million pounds.

California leads the way in production of Italian cheese and Wisconsin is number one in American-type cheese. New York's production of Italian cheeses, such as parmesan, mozzarella and provolone, accounts for 48 percent of all cheese made in the state.

There are many cheese manufacturers in the state, in fact, too many to mention. Go to http://www.newyorkcheese.org/  to learn more about New York cheese makers.

And of course, if having so many large manufacturers isn't enough to satisfy your cheese cravings, there also are many farms in the state that make their own artisan cheeses for sale. A group of them in Central New York and the Finger Lakes have joined to form the Finger Lakes Cheese Trail -- 12 farms and creameries that use cow or goat milk to make fabulous cheeses.

Go to http://flcheesetrail.com/ for information on the farms, a map on how to find them, a list of what they make and a great calendar of events along the trail.

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