Cougar Gold: Taste Trumps Perception

Taking the “Looks can be deceiving” adage to the max.

Cougar Gold

It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings. The stuff that really doesn’t mean much, but, influences none the less. The perception versus the reality. What’s expected compared to the result. Admittedly, we’ve all been duped at one point or another. Learn and move on.

I’m not a cheese snob. I know what I like and I don’t really care much if others don’t share my taste. Frankly, sometimes I would rather they didn’t. I like cheese. And, when it comes to evaluating it I give some pretty large sway.

Some examples, I’m not a huge fan of Velveeta right out of the cardboard carton and foil wrap. But, it makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich or macaroni and cheese casserole. Cheez Whiz, not, really my thing. But, I couldn’t imagine a Pat’s Philly Cheesesteak without a big smear as the crowning touch to the sandwich.

So, when someone breaks out a nearly two pound CAN of cheese what’s the expectation? It probably falls somewhere in between Jamaican Tastee Cheese and that afore mentioned loaf of refrigeration not necessary Velveeta. Your hopes are probably not soaring. The realty is, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Enter the World Famous Cougar Gold. A product of the Washington State University Creamery. This award winning cheese has a history as fascinating as the cheese is delicious. Back in the 1930’s WSU was looking for a new way to store the cheeses that their creamery had been producing.

Plastic hadn’t been invented yet and the wax wrappings were prone to cracking thereby contaminating the product. They were in search of a better storage method. The research team eventually agreed that the can would make a perfect vessel. They claim that their can is so good, it will store the cheese indefinitely (under refrigeration).

During that same period the researchers also perfected a delicious sharp white cheddar cheese. They dubbed it Cougar Gold, named partly after one of the researchers, Dr. N.S. Golding. The cheese has been in continuous production ever since.

Cougar Gold

During our tasting almost the entire gathering thought Cougar Gold was a hit. There always has to be a naysayer or two in any crowd. It’s what inevitably happens when you let past experiences color your judgement of current events. Sometimes there’s a disconnect.

As it turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought it was fantastic. This cheese in a can has won a bunch of REAL cheese accolades. Check out these bragging rights:

  • Santé Magazine Gold Star Award 2009 and 2010
  • American Cheese Society 2nd Place 2008
  • World Cheese Awards Gold Medal 2006
  • World Cheese Awards Silver Medal (1st in Class) 2000
  • United States Cheese Champion Silver Medal 1995
  • American Cheese Society Blue Ribbon 1993

That’s some serious hardware.

I’ve always believed that presentation and context is everything. Take this 30 ounce wheel of cheddar. Whack it up into 4 ounce portions. Wrap it in fancy cheese paper and slap an arty, yet rustic label on the top. Place it ever so delicately in the cheese section of Whole Foods or any other gourmet market and people would be falling all over themselves to shell out $12.00 for a single wedge (instead of $18 for an entire can!). Guaranteed!

I’m sure at this point you would like to sample your own wheel of canned cheese. No problem. Washington State University makes that as easy as… You can click here to order yours.

The moral of this cheesy story. Never judge a book by it’s cover or a cheese by it’s wrapping. You might just end up missing out on a great hidden treasure.

Looking for that special occasion cheese or wanting to try and make some at home? Maybe one of these books can help.

The World Cheese Book
Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses
The Cheese Bible
Mastering Cheese: Lessons for Connoisseurship from a Maître Fromager

6 thoughts on “Cougar Gold: Taste Trumps Perception

  1. Madame Fromage

    Holy crow! I saw this at the American Cheese Society, but I had no idea it came from a can. I’m definitely curious. How does it taste–is it sharp or mild and buttery? Can you taste the can?

    1. CBM Post author

      The wheel that I tasted had a great sharp nutty flavor. It was hard to stop eating actually. The cheese we had was stamped on top that it was “canned” in March 2010. There was no way you could tell it was from an can unless you saw someone with the opener in their hand! No tinny or metallic taste whatsoever. Could stand up against any sharp cheddar.

  2. Mikey

    If you think the cheese is good, you have to visit Ferdinand’s and try the mint chip ice cream…and ’83 grad who gained like 15 lbs since most of my classes where next door. [sigh]

  3. Grace Ringler

    Please tell me how I can order a can of Cougar cheese. I can’t find it at any store and would love to buy a tin of it.

    thank you!! Grace


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