Our Immigrant Heritage
The United States is a nation of immigrants, and its cheese traditions started with its first settlers. Early in the 1600’s, almost 200 years before the United States existed, European settlers landed in the “New World.” Dairy cows and other livestock accompanied the immigrants so they could establish their own farms in the new land. They also brought with them cheese, a treasured food that they knew would survive the long ocean journey.
For several centuries to follow, people from all over Europe continued to migrate to the United States, including the English, Italians, French, Swiss, Germans, Dutch, Irish, Scandinavians, and others. Finding rich soil and grasses that reminded them of their mother countries, these immigrants quickly began to settle down and farm the land.
Many of the immigrants knew how to make cheese, a skill that had been passed on from one generation to the next. Using centuries-old family recipes and traditional methods they began to make cheese. They produced cheeses similar to the ones their ancestors had made in Europe, such as Cheddar, Gouda, Provolone, and Swiss. Together, these cheesemakers created a melting pot of cheeses for the growing population and fledgling cities.
The Industrial Revolution during the early 19th century brought changes to farmstead dairying and cheesemaking, making it possible for the dairy farms to expand and produce an even larger volume of cheese. With the advent of the cheese factory in the mid-19th century, cheesemaking moved off of the farm and into the factory. The success of these factories inspired others, and soon cheese factories scattered the countryside.
An industry was quickly born, starting a long tradition of cheesemaking in the United States that continues today.