The North American Kosher Cheese Market’s Coming of Age
By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer
Those who follow kosher market trends are vividly aware of the maturation of the North American kosher wine industry, in which prize-winning wines that “just happen to be kosher” now pack the shelves of fine grocery and liquor shops. In fact, there are currently so many top-tier kosher wine manufacturers and brands that one literally cannot keep track.
And now, wine’s partner is finally catching up – the North American kosher cheese market is at last coming of age, offering prize-winning cheeses of innumerable varieties, all manufactured by the most respected names in the cheese industry.
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Bothwell Cheese of New Bothwell, Manitoba, is a crown jewel in the Canadian cheese industry. Famous for its award-winning Cheddar and Gouda, and its incredible Madagascar Green Peppercorn – all of which are OU certified – Bothwell Cheese is quickly carving out an important niche in the kosher cheese market. Offering over 30 exciting varieties of gourmet kosher cheeses, including exotic extra-aged, spiced and smoked cheeses, Bothwell Cheese has gone all-out to meet the highest of kosher standards in every conceivable manner, earning OU certification and the ability to bring dozens of cheeses that previously were not available to the North American kosher table.
The mastermind behind the Bothwell Cheese OU program is Rob Hiebert, Manager of Operations, who carefully and caringly assures that Bothwell Cheese’s OU offerings continue to meet the highest kosher standards. Rachelle Lichtman, one of the most professional kosher supervisors to be found anywhere, provides on-site OU supervision, with the expert and hands-on guidance of Rabbi Gabe Brojges of Winnipeg and Rabbi Dovid Jenkins from OU’s New York headquarters. This fantastic team is the engine behind the Bothwell Cheese kosher success story.
Lake Country Dairy of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, brings an incredible offering of Italian cheeses to the kosher table, most of which are very seriously aged; two years is not at all unusual here. Artisanal wheels of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano, as well as special Copper Kettle Parmesan and Mascarpone, have earned Lake Country Dairy renown in the super-competitive Wisconsin cheese industry and well beyond. Jesse Norton, Quality Assurance Director, and Gary Gosda, Production Manager, work carefully with OU rabbinic field representatives Rabbi Shimon Perez and Rabbi Shimon Afenzer to assure stellar kosher compliance and the maintenance of a superlative kosher program, masterfully developed with Rabbi Perez’ close involvement at every step.
Lake Country Dairy is a subsidiary of Arthur Schuman, Inc. Arthur Shuman likewise maintains its own magnificent OU program, offering Diced Dry Jack, Fresh Shredded Asiago and Asiago/Romano Blend, and two-year aged wheels of Parmesan, Asiago and Romano. OU veteran rabbinic field representative Rabbi Avrohom Chesny carefully coordinates and directs all kosher supervision of Arthur Schuman’s OU-certified cheeses.
Bluegrass Dairy & Food, LLC was introduced to readers of Behind the Union Symbol several years ago, as this Kentucky-based, multifaceted company took a deep and highly successful plunge into the kosher cheese market. Bluegrass’ OU-certified Monterey Jack and Cheddar, produced under the direction of master cheese-maker Ricky Gulley, have won an impressive array of cheese awards throughout the country. Bluegrass manufactures three dozen different OU-certified premium natural cheeses, including Asiago, Bakers, White Cheddar, Organic Cheddar, and a large number of Jack cheeses, both regular and spiced.
Bluegrass also offers more than 150 specialty kosher cheese powders, earning a unique and critical place in the cheese powder and seasoning industries. OU rabbinic field representatives Rabbi Yosef Capland and Rabbi Yosef Levy provide expert on-site supervision for every kosher cheese production, working literally around the clock with unparalleled dedication to the highest level top-notch kosher certification of Bluegrass’ quality products.
Old World Marketplace is the kosher prince of gourmet retail cheeses. Offering The Cheese Guy and Vermont Bloom brand gourmet cheeses, no other company in American kosher history has offered such an outstanding and exotic range of artisanal and specialty kosher cheeses: Reggianito Parmesan, Aged Havarti, Aged Vermont Cheddar, Pecorino Romano, Brie, Bleu Cheese, Goat Cheese, Grated Parmesan, Organic New Zealand Cheddar, Smoked Scamorza, Brie and Zesty Marinated Braids constitute a small sampling of the 100 varieties of specialty gourmet OU-certified cheeses available from Old World Marketplace.
Brent Delman, company owner, travels the world on a regular basis to produce Old World Marketplace’s delectable offerings. In an effort to cater to the entire spectrum and calendar of the kosher market, Brent assures that a great many of his cheeses are Kosher for Passover and are Chalav Yisrael, thereby delivering desired product to even the Chassidic consumer base.
Kosher certification of cheese is not for every company. It entails full-time, on-site rabbinic supervision for every step of production, cutting and packaging, and special labeling regulations also pertain. Those companies that have undertaken the program, with a serious commitment to its specialized protocol and the ability to provide unique, top-notch product have seen great success with their OU certified cheese offerings.
North America’s kosher cheese has finally come of age, and the companies and people we’ve high-lighted here are among its superstars, with whom the OU is immensely proud and honored to partner.
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer is a rabbinic coordinator at OU Kosher, where he specializes in the dairy industry. Rabbi Gordimer is the chairman of the OU Dairy Committee, and he manages the OU programs of over 90 certified dairy companies.