Monterey Jack Cheese Began As A Tragically Stolen Recipe

Today, Monterey Jack cheese is widely known and distributed in the U.S. in different varieties and blends, including pepper jack, Colby Jack, and cheddar jack, just to name a few. People buy it in packaged slices or blocks, serving as an appetizer with crackers or making sandwiches.

It is also commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes such as tacos, nachos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and burritos. And of course, you can blend it up in your mac n' cheese or pasta casserole recipe. The website, repping a state that knows a little something about dairy products, describes Monterrey Jack as a "SuperMelter” that melts perfectly on foods due to its high fat and moisture content. They also note its mild flavor, which doesn't stand out and melds together nicely with an array of foods.

This melting masterpiece has the versatility to work with a range of dishes. It's a beloved cheese indeed, but sadly, it is believed that Monterey Jack may have begun as a tragically stolen recipe.

You don't know Jacks

Monterey Jack's history traces back to Monterey Bay, California, in the 1700s, during which time Franciscan friars from Mexico brought with them a cheese varyingly called queso del pais or queso blanco. The present name Monterey Jack is linked to David Jacks, a landowner who was the first person to sell it on a mass scale in the 1880s (per Cook's Info).

But he may not have been the first person to adopt the recipe and sell it commercially. One person who is thought to have come before Jacks is Dona Juana Cota de Boronda, who made and sold the cheese locally (under its traditional moniker queso del pais) through her Boronda dairy (via Monterey County Historical Society). Another possible precursor to Jacks was Domingo Pedrazzi, whose use of a house jack during the cheese production process may have originally given it the name Jack cheese, which he sold under his namesake (per Culinary Lore). Additionally, entries found in area store ledgers dating from 1859 document transactions of the jack cheese, preceding the launch of Jack's cheese empire.

The debate rages over whether Jacks stole his Monterey Jack recipe from these traditional queso del pais recipes and whether the name Jack was already used locally to reference the cheese before he started mass marketing it as 'Jacks' Cheese.' Allegedly, the name was changed because people kept requesting cheese from 'Monterey Jack,' denoting the place where Jacks operated his 14 dairies that churned out the product.