National Cheese Day: June 4

National Cheese Day is a delightful celebration that pays homage to one of the world’s most beloved and versatile foods: cheese

June 4 is National Cheese Day. Not to be confused with other popular cheese related holidays like Grilled Cheese Day, Cheesecake Day, or Mac and Cheese Day. This day is in reverence of the queen of all dairy, the big cheese.

History of National Cheese Day

Cheese making is an ancient, some might even say, sacred craft. So ancient it predates recorded history. It is speculated that the magic of cheese making began somewhere around 8000 BC, shortly after the domestication of animals.

Archeological digs have found evidence of cheese around the world including strainers coated in milk-fat molecules in Kuyavia, Poland dated around 5500 BC, murals in Egypt dated at 2000 BC, and an artifact of preserved cheese in Xinjiang, China believed to be more than 3,000 years old. European Imperialism took their styles of cheese through Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and eventually to the Americas.

The most popular cheese of all is mozzarella. This delicious and pizza topping cheese was first created near Naples from the rich milk of water buffalos. At the time, it rarely left its home near Naples as it was made from pasteurized milk and a lack of refrigeration meant it had a very short shelf life. As both cheese technology and refrigeration systems advanced, this delicious cheese left the southern region of Italy and traveling around the world. 

There are two types of mozzarella produced within the United States—low moisture and high moisture. Low moisture mozzarella has a moisture content less than 50 percent while high moisture has a content of over 52 percent. Low moisture is made specifically for transportation and mass production as the lack of moisture gives it a longer shelf life.

Today, cheese dishes can be found on every continent served savory, sweet, melted, deep fried, and even chilled in ice cream. This household staple can still satisfy any craving after thousands of years.

National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

President Calvin Coolidge came from a family of cheesemakers

Visitors to the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Vermont can walk the grounds of the 30th President’s homeplace and burial—and even tour his family’s cheese factory. President Coolidge’s father, John, founded the family cheesemaking business in 1890 as a way to monetize extra milk from his dairy farm.

Despite regional success, Plymouth Cheese shuttered amid the Great Depression, a few years after Coolidge’s time in office ended. However, the family business was revived in 1960 when Coolidge’s son restored the factory and resumed cheese production.

After three decades, the family business was sold to the state of Vermont with the guarantee it would remain open and operational. Today’s visitors to the historic site can sample the Coolidge family’s original cheddar recipe first created more than 130 years ago. 

National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The world’s hardest cheese can last for up to 20 years

There are countless varieties of cheese found throughout the world from soft goat cheese to the particularly fragrant Limburger. But there’s one type of cheese that has an exceptionally amazing shelf life: chhurpi, a Nepalese cheese that can last up to 20 years. Popularly consumed in remote villages deep in the Himalayas, chhurpi has a smoky flavor and tough consistency; the cheese is so hard it’s typically chewed like gum.

Creating chhurpi starts with milk from yaks, cows, buffaloes, and chauris—an animal that’s a cross between a yak and a cow—which is then fermented for up to a year. Dehydrating the chunks of cheese removes most of its moisture making it safe to eat without refrigeration for up to two decades, a helpful quality in a region where access to fresh foods is somewhat limited.
Whether produced in Nepal or otherwise, all varieties of hard cheese undergo the same process to reach their firm texture and sharp flavor.

Every cheese begins with milk that’s been blended with the bacteria responsible for giving the final product a specific flavor (like Lactococcus lactis used in cheddar, or Streptococcus thermophilus used to make Swiss), and some curds retain more liquid in the shaping and aging process. 

Soft cheeses have more moisture which is why they attract bacteria and spoil easily without made in refrigeration while hard cheeses have drastically less (making them safer to eat without chilling). Cheesemakers are able to achieve this lack of moisture by pressing, heating, or salting newly formed blocks of cheese to draw out as much water as possible. Aging cheese, often for three years or longer further saps its moisture levels and gives hard cheeses that crumbly texture so perfectly paired with crackers—or just enjoyed on its own.

National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Cheese Day timeline

  • 1815: First large scale industrial cheese production begins in Switzerland
  • 1851: Jesse Williams, a farmer is credited with being the first to have an assembly-line of cheese production in Rome, New York
  • 1939-1945: Factory made cheese surpasses the production numbers of traditional farm raised cheeses during World War II
  • 1982: The Mozzarella Company was founded in Dallas to bring fresh Mozzarella to America

By the numbers

  • 4: Percentage of all cheese being sold that ends up stolen
  • 1,400 pounds: Weight of a block of cheddar cheese delivered to the White House once by President Andrew Jackson
  • 2: Hours it took for 10,000 visitors to the White House to finish the block of cheddar cheese
  • 17th century: Period in which they started dyeing cheese orange to fool people into thinking it was higher quality
  • 1,000: Estimated number of different French cheeses
  • 1615 BC: Year when the oldest known cheese was discovered in China
  • 10: Pounds of whole milk required to make 1 pound of cheese
  • 25.5: Length (in feet) of the world’s largest cheese slicer, on display in Norway
  • 1,700+: Types of cheese produced in the United States
  • 10 billion: Approximate number of microbes found in a piece of cheese
National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Cheese Day activities

  • Charcuterie: Make a spread of some of your favorite cheeses to enjoy solo or with friends. Try working in new and international varieties you’ve never tried before.
  • Take a cooking class: You may be surprised how many cheese themed educational experiences there are. Learn how to make your own cheese at home, the perfect drink and food pairings, or discover a new cheesy dish. With workshops and free online tutorials there are a lot of ways you can learn to enjoy this ancient culinary staple.
  • Cook something: Whether traditional comfort food like mac n cheese, the tangy sweetness of cheesecake, or the contemporary refinement of stuffed pull-apart bread there are countless cheese recipes to try. Why not try a new twist on a family recipe or search the internet for the latest cheese trend. You can start simple with a five ingredient ricotta cheese recipe.
National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Facts about cheese that will blow your mind

  • Americans cut the cheese: Contrary to popular assumption the U.S., not Europe, is the largest producer of cheese making up 29 percent of the global market. In order the top producing countries are the United States, Germany, France, and Italy.
  • Don’t forget the stomach: Rennet is curdled milk and complex enzymes found in the fourth stomach of unweaned calves and is often added in the cheese making process as it is considered to make a bolder, richer quality product.
  • Medieval curds: The most popular types of cheeses of today like gouda, cheddar, parmesan, and camembert, all came in vogue during or after the Middle Ages.
  • Cheesy Moon: The long standing myth that the moon is made out of cheese may stem from The Proverbs of John Heywood back in 1546 which stated “the moon is made of a green cheese.” We now understand this to be more metaphoric than literal with green referring to the freshness or un-aged nature of the moon.
National Cheese Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why I love National Cheese Day

  • Expanding our Palate: We love taking our taste buds on new adventures! Today can be about trying so much more than cheese! Wine, beer, meats, veggies, deserts… all of it is up for grabs and we can’t wait.
  • New cultural experiences: As an international food staple, National Cheese Day opens the door to a variety of new cultural experiences. We love being able to explore new dishes, cultures, and traditions.
  • Sharing and bonding: We love breaking cheesy bread and making new memories with the ones we love.

National Cheese Day related holidays

  • January 20: National Cheese Lovers Day
  • February 13: National Cheddar Day
  • April 17: National Cheese Ball Day
  • October 15: National Cheese Curd Day

Worth Pondering…

Cheese is milk’s leap toward immortality.

—Clifton Fadiman