The cheese made with a 70-year-old culture

Atlas Obscura, in addition to its sister site Gastro Obscura, continually unearths delightful oddities about food. EYB Member sir_ken_g tipped us off to a particularly interesting article about a canned cheese developed at the University of Washington that uses a secret culture that’s over 70 years old.


‘Why would you put cheese in a can?’, you might wonder. The impetus for Cougar Gold Cheese, which is still being produced today, came from the Second World War. The U.S. government needed a better way to preserve cheese that was shipped to overseas soldiers, as the wax coating in use at the time was prone to cracking, allowing the cheese to spoil. 

They decided to use a can in order to provide an impermeable container for the cheese. The problem with this is that cheese contains bacteria that produce carbon dioxide, which would build up inside the can and potentially cause it to explode. Scientists puzzled over this conundrum until a professor at the University of Washington, N.S. Golding, devised a solution. 

He developed a special culture that limited the carbon dioxide. Not only did this aid the government in being able to safely send cheese across the ocean, it also proved to be a revolution in the cheese-making industry. According to  Culture  magazine, Golding “altered the microbial environment enough to create an entirely new cheese-crumbly and nutty yet creamy on the palate, milky sweet with a gently dissipating sharpness.”

Although 70 years have passed, the university is still tending to this special culture and still producing the cheese, which has an almost indefinite shelf life when stored in the refrigerator.

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  • sir_ken_g  on  August 2, 2018

    I attended WSU years ago and discovered Cougar Gold then.
    It is a fairly hard cheddar with a yummy nutty flavor.
    It contains no dye and is nearly white.
    WSU sells it on-line.
    Their ice cream is great too.

  • maestra  on  August 3, 2018

    As sir_ken-g loosely noted, this cheese is from Washington State University (Pullman), not University of Washington (Seattle).

  • hillsboroks  on  August 4, 2018

    Cougar Gold is seasonally available at some grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest and it is sought after and tends to sell out quickly. Whenever I see it at my local New Seasons store I buy a can or a chunk of it. It is a true treasure of a cheese.

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