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September 19, 2012

Maytag Blue Cheese

by Anne Paddock

When most people think of blue cheese, they think of a strong pungent cheese such as Roquefort Cheese – a blue cheese made from sheep’s milk that hails from the south of France. Maytag Blue Cheese of Newton, Iowa is a blue cheese made from cow’s milk that is tangy – almost lemony – with a moist and crumbly texture; a semi-soft cheese loved by many who give it a chance.

About 25 years ago, my husband took me to his grandmother’s farm in Monroe, Iowa (population 1,814) where I was first introduced to Maytag Blue Cheese. 14 miles north of Monroe is Newton – a small town that used to be famous for two products:  Maytag Appliances and Maytag Blue Cheese.  The appliance company has since been acquired by Whirlpool and the local factory closed down but Maytag Blue Cheese lives on (and is still owned by the Maytag family although it was never connected to the appliance company) and continues to make their fine blue cheese.

Originally a dairy farm with a prize-winning herd of Holstein cattle, Maytag Dairy Farms started making blue cheese about 70 years ago (in 1941) after Fred and Robert Maytag (grandsons of Frederick Maytag who started the appliance company) contracted with Iowa State University to help them develop a blue cheese with cow’s milk – not an east feat as the homogenization process and the adding of rennet and penicillium had to be adjusted to produce what is now known as Maytag Blue Cheese.

cheese.pngAlthough the company no longer keeps a herd of Holstein cattle, they do use the milk from local dairy farms to make their famous cheese the old-fashioned way – by hand. The wheels are placed in caves dug into the hillsides of the Newton farm which keeps the cheese exposed to high humidity and cool temperatures for the six month aging period and are hand turned to make sure the correct moisture level is maintained.

Maytag Blue Cheese is a pale white color marbled with a slight blue mold that gives the cheese a mildly piquant flavor. Much less pungent than a Roquefort Cheese, Maytag Blue Cheese is perfect to crumble in a salad or to serve with ripe pears and toasted pecans as a dessert or tossed in a green salad.

16139_180927674379_2454013_nTo purchase Maytag Blue Cheese on-line, go to the company website listed below. The cheese is sold in a variety of sizes that range from 1 ounce individually wrapped wedges (12 for $22.95), 4-ounce wrapped wedges (8 for $42.95), 8-ounce wrapped wedges (2 for $19.95), a 2-pound wheel ($29.95) and even a 4-pound wheel ($56.95), plus shipping – which is very reasonable.

wedgesIf your travels ever bring you to central Iowa (the Des Moines area), consider touring the Maytag Dairy Farms. Free tours and samples are given Monday to Friday from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm but call the number below to verify times as there are seasonal changes in the schedule.

Maytag Dairy Farms
2282 East 8th Street North
Newton, Iowa  50208

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