Most people associate the Maytag name with soap suds and spin cycles.
But the grandson of the famous appliance company’s founder made a name for himself not in washing machines, but in cheese.
In 1919, E.H. Maytag established a herd of Holstein show cows on the family’s Iowa farm. By the 1930s, the cows were faring extremely well on the show circuit, winning medals in competitions across the country.
When E.H.’s son, Fred, inherited the farm, he envisioned another use for the dairy’s milk. On trips abroad, Fred had sampled and relished fine blue cheeses made from sheep’s milk – cheeses that weren’t being made in the United States. But how to make blue cheese out of cow’s milk?
As fate would have it, researchers at nearby Iowa State University had been working on a process that broke down the fat particles in cow’s milk so it behaved as sheep’s milk.
Maytag licensed the process from the university, and on October 11, 1941, the first wheels of Maytag Blue were formed and put in the farm’s curing caves to age. The process is still being used today at Maytag Dairy Farms.
It’s a time-consuming process that involves hand-making the cheese in small batches from fresh, sweet milk. Each batch then is aged for between four and six months, monitored every step of the way. When a wheel of cheese finally attains the perfect combination of flavor, texture and creaminess, it’s packaged and put on sale.
Maytag Blue has been acclaimed by cheese experts and food editors as the finest blue made in America – and among the greatest in the world.
When Whirlpool Corp. bought the Maytag appliance company in 2005, and closed Maytag’s Iowa plant, some cheese devotees worried that Maytag Blue could become a thing of the past. But the Maytag family owns the dairy farm outright, and a fourth-generation family member has joined the cheese-making operation.
Members of the Light & Sweet Wine Club will be delighted to hear that Maytag Blue pairs perfectly with sweet wines, including Muscats and many Rieslings. And although it may sound contradictory, Maytag Blue also matches beautifully with big, bold red wines, such as those featured by the Elevant Society.