While hunting for the information about the Master Food Preservers Certification–annoyingly, now effectively defunct for 95+% of the population of the state of Washington … including your Fearless Blogger–I made another discovery about Washington State University: they have a working dairy farm on campus, including a creamery where they make their own cheeses … for sale!
My husband and I decided to put in an order to see what they were all about, and–within just a few days–four cheese tins arrived on my doorstep: a Viking Sweet Basil, a Viking Dill Garlic, a cheese they call “Cougar Gold” … and a piggybank, made out of a cheese tin!
Hey, y’all know I’m a kid at heart! I couldn’t resist
The Viking cheeses are their version of Monterey Jack. They offer them in plain, Dill-Garlic, Sweet Basil, Hot Pepper–that sounds a lot like pepper jack–and then something called “Crimson Fire” … that I assume is a blazingly HOT version of their Hot Pepper cheese.
On the cheddar side of the house, they make an American Cheddar … which is a classic aged orange cheddar; a Smoky Cheddar, created by adding a natural smoke flavor to their American Cheddar. No thanks! I don’t like smoked cheeses–especially those that use artificial smoke flavor–but I know other people do. And then they offer the Cougar Gold we ordered, which–strangely–is actually their white cheddar.
We opened the Dill-Garlic first, and WOW! … that’s good cheese! One of the ways my husband describes good, aged cheese is that he says “You know that kind of cheese that just SUCKS the water right out of your mouth when you bite it?” … well, the Dill-Garlic isn’t even one of their so-called aged cheeses … but he said that same thing about it. It just fills your mouth and demands your complete attention the second you taste it: not because the flavor is strong or overwhelming … but because the cheese is sharp and salty and just beautifully flavored. It crumbles in your mouth as you bite it–in fact, keeping thin slices intact is next to impossible … but it melts nice–and then it just takes over flavor-wise … coating every corner of your mouth with yummy cheese (and–in this case–garlic and dill) flavor … without being overwhelming … if that makes sense, of course …*chuckles*
I can’t wait to crack open the other two. I already know we’re going to love them
WSU cheeses cost $18.00 for each 30-ounce tin. The shipping and handling charge is based on the number of cans you order/have shipped at one time. It’s $5.00 a shipment and then $2/can. If you order one can, that’s $25 for 30 ounces of cheese–including shipping, but not tax–so that’s roughly $13.33/lb for cheese. If you buy more cans at one time, it saves you more money! For example:
- 2 cans @ $18 each + $5 + $2 + $2 = $12.00/lb
- 3 cans @ $18 each + $5 + $2 + $2 + $2 = $11.55/lb
- 4 cans @ $18 each + $5 + $2 + $2 + $2 + $2 = $11.33/lb
- 5 cans @ $18 each + $5 + $2 + $2 + $2 + $2 + $2 = 11.20/lb
NOTE: if you join one of their clubs, where you have a certain number of cheeses shipped to you–one/month, over either 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 months (they won’t ship in the Summer)–you’re basically paying $25/shipment each time … and shipping one tin of cheese. That’s the most expensive rate–short of buying their variety pack of quarter-tin wedges of cheese …. more on that in a second–that you can pay for their cheese … because it’s the most expensive shipping and handling rates.
In other words, I’d suggest ordering two or more at a time … even when you’re shipping them out as gifts … rather than send them once a month like that! The cheese stays just as fresh. As long as you don’t open the tins and you keep your cheese refrigerated, they say the shelf life on them is virtually endless … so, unless your gift recipient doesn’t have the fridge space to store them, it’s more economical for you to send them, say, three tins of cheese at one time … than it is to set them up on a month-to-month gift of cheese.
It’s not priced like Velveeta, but–as I’m sure you’ll agree–that isn’t all that bad for great gourmet cheese either. I’ve paid upwards of $25/lb for pedestrian sorts of artisan cheeses, and >$40/lb for some of the better ones … so $11.20-$13.33/lb is awesome for this cheese! Granted, we really like the Tillamook Vintage White cheddar … and the Safeway down at the end of our street sells it for $4.40/lb … but this is MUCH better cheese all the way around, more like some of the cheeses I buy at my local Central Market … so I consider it worth the expense, and then some!
If you’re not sure what flavor you’d like–or if you don’t want to spend an entire 30 ounces on one cheese–then WSU also offers a Variety Pack (30 ounces total weight, $32 with shipping … so, a little over $17/lb) that includes wedges of their Cougar Gold, American Cheddar, Viking, and Smoky Cheddar cheeses. It’s definitely more expensive that way, but you can also sample small amounts of four different cheeses in one delivery, without committing fridge space to four different cans. You might decide it’s worth it to you.
According to their website, they also do special flavors periodically … but I don’t see a way to sign up for any notifications from them. I guess we just have to hope that–once we’ve ordered from them once–they’ll either send us notice when they’re making something special … or we’ll have to remember to go back and check periodically on our own.
Either way, though, I’m definitely ordering more Cougar cheese … and soon!