Maytag blue cheese is easily the most recognizable of the eight or nine types of blue cheese produced in America and has a long history that started with, of all things, washing machines. Frederick Maytag invented the initial prototype of a washing machine in the late 1800s in the small Midwest town of Newton, Iowa. This invention started the Maytag appliance company that is still going strong in America today. His son, Elmer Henry Maytag, became the company president in 1926 but also enjoyed raising dairy cows on the side and had a dairy company that provided milk to the town. During the Great Depression, his sons Frederick L. Maytag and Robert Maytag sought a way to expand the dairy company’s profits beyond milk. At the same time, scientists at Iowa State University were trying to find a way to create a blue cheese similar to Roquefort in America. The Maytag family collaborated with the researchers and built both a cheese plant and large vaults under the city called “caves” to age the cheese. The first batch of Maytag blue cheese was produced for consumers on October 11, 1941.
Today, the blue cheese is extremely popular due almost entirely to word of mouth and it is still made on the original Maytag farm. The farm no longer raises their own cows and instead obtains milk from a dairy cooperative in the town. Some of the cows that produce the milk are direct descendants from the original Maytag herd. The company makes the blue cheese nearly the same way it was made sixty years ago. The cheese is almost entirely made by hand and in small batches. To make the blue cheese, the cheese is seeded with Penicilium roqueforti and then cured and aged in the caves for about six months.
Maytag blue cheese can be purchased directly at the company in Newton, in specialty stores, or by mail or phone orders. Some specialty web sites also carry the cheese. Cheese connoisseurs note that the cheese is crumbly and moist and tastes a bit sharp, spicy, and rather salty. It is recommended to serve the cheese on a cheese plate at room temperature for the best flavor. Additionally, the cheese can be used in any recipe that calls for blue cheese.