sampling display of cubed monterey cheese on the wooden board, selective focus. vintage photo and film style
The Twisted Origin Story Behind Monterey Jack Cheese
By Nico Danilovich
The story goes that Monterey Jack cheese originates from Monterey County, California, where Spanish missionaries set up dairy farms and produced queso blanco país in the 1700s (per Food & Wine). After the U.S. purchased California in 1848, a businessman named David Jacks was able to buy most of Monterey City and essentially steal the recipe that would become Monterey Jack cheese.
As a landlord, Jacks foreclosed properties and took possession of many dairy farms, including those that produced the cheese. He sold the cheese, renaming it “Jack’s Cheese” — which caught on as “Monterey Jack’s cheese” — and while it’s generally accepted that Jacks was the mastermind behind the cheese’s rise to fame, there are a few competing theories about where the recipe comes from.
It may have been developed in Carmel Valley, California, where Domingo Pedrazzi made “jack cheese” with a jack press, while another story claims a Monterey woman recreated the Spanish missionaries’ cheese, selling it door-to-door until Jacks took notice. Regardless, Jacks ensured that his name and Monterey’s would forever be remembered through “his” cheese.