When you hear the term “American cheese,” you probably think of the processed, yellow slices that are popular among toddlers. But the truth is, there's a whole variety of delicious gourmet cheeses made right here in the U.S. You've probably heard of many of them and there are a few that most people eat on a regular basis.
Most American cheese is made in either California or Wisconsin. Aside from the more popular commercially produced varieties of cheeses that come from the U.S., there are a wide variety of artisan cheeses produced by local dairies across the country. They can be purchased from local grocers, at farmer's markets, or straight from the dairies where they're made.
Monterey Jack cheese is a semi-hard, white cheese that originated in Monterey, California, back when that was still part of Mexico. It was later sold commercially by a California businessman by the name of David Jack, who gave it its name. When spicy peppers are added, it is referred to as Pepper Jack cheese. Monterey Jack cheese is commonly paired with another American cheese, Colby, to make a semi-hard marble called Colby-Jack.
Colby cheese originated in Colby, Wisconsin. It is similar to cheddar cheese but it doesn't go through the “cheddaring” process. Instead, it undergoes a washed-curd process that replaces the whey with water. This leaves a cheese that is softer, more mild, and more moist than traditional cheddar.
If you prefer soft cheeses, Bergenost is a great option. It is made in Corfu, New York, using cultures imported from Norway. It is spreadable, similar to Norwegian butter cheeses, and sold in green-coated wedges. It has a smooth, mild, slightly sour flavor that made it the winner of the 1999 New York State Fair Cheese Contest.