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Local cheese almost takes 1st nationally

Crescent City’s own cheesemaker nearly beat out the competition in a nationwide cheese contest last week in Wisconsin.

Rumiano Cheese Company’s dry Monterey jack took second place in the 2013 U.S. Cheese Championship’s open class category for hard cheeses. The company missed out on the first-place award to BelGioioso Cheese Inc. of Green Bay, Wis., by .05 of a point, said Joby Rumiano, a fourth-generation owner of the local company.

The award will be presented next month in Wisconsin, Rumiano said.

“We scored a 99.95,” he said. “It’s really high. Almost 100 percent, which is pretty unheard of.”

Rumiano said his family has been making dry Monterey jack since the early 1920s, a few years after the first generation of cheesemakers opened a dairy in Willows, Calif. At a time with no refrigeration, the company’s founders needed a more shelf-stable product, he said.

 

In the years following World War I, hard Italian-style grating cheese had become very scarce in the United States, according to Rumiano. Richard, Fred and John Rumiano aged the cheese in hand-dug cellars prior to selling it to local merchants.

“On the dry Monterey jack, we make it to where it’s comparable to a Parmesan in that it’s got less moisture in it,” Rumiano said. “So it’s a harder cheese. Theoretically it should be able to be preserved at room temperature or left out in some cases. (There’s been) a long history of demand for it.”

Not surprising for a cheese that’s more than 90 years old, Rumiano’s dry jack has been recognized before. The company’s dry jack with peppercorns, called Pepato, took best of class at the U.S. Cheese Championship’s 2005 competition. Rumiano Cheese Company also has two other silver medals from previous competitions.

After winning a medal in a national cheese competition, Rumiano said his family’s cheese will likely be featured in the industry publication, Cheese Market News, with all the other award winners. Rumiano Cheese Company may also advertise and promote its dry jack through specialty food magazines and other online resources.

“We’ve already done social media and posted all that,” Rumiano said. “We’ll put it on our website and we’ll advertise it a little bit on our dry jack (product).” 

Rumiano said he wasn’t sure if he or his family will be headed to Wisconsin to receive their silver medal. His family is currently putting in some equipment to make and distribute retail-size packages of butter to local grocery stores.

The company makes a European-style butter that is popular at bakeries around the region, Rumiano said. 

“Right now we do large-volume butter, but now we’ll be able to do more retail-size packages that people will be able to find in grocery stores,” he said, adding that project should be finished next month. “It’s nice and yellow and high in butter fat. It’s good for baking and cooking. A lot of local bakeries and restaurants buy it right now in bulk and use it in their products. They love the way it browns.”

The Rumiano brothers established their first dairy in 1919 and incorporated in 1921, Joby Rumiano said. The company still distributes its cheese from Willows, but makes it in Crescent City. The milk for its cheeses come from dairies in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

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