Ah, Hawaii. The sandy beaches, the crystal clear ocean, the tropical fruits, and…the cheese? That’s right! You can get your favorite little bites of paradise in paradise. America’s island-chain gem may not be widely known for its curd-tastic creameries, but Hawaii’s cheese culture is alive and well nonetheless.
Given Hawaii’s long history of cattle ranching and paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys), your first thought might be that cow’s milk is the primary cheese on the islands. However, there is currently only one dairy that commercially produces cow’s milk cheese in the entire state. Located on the capitol island of Oahu is the Naked Cow Creamery. Opened in 2007 by two sisters who wanted farm-fresh dairy options, the Naked Cow Creamery quickly became known for its all-natural butters, yogurts, and cheeses. These products are not only used in some of Oahu’s best restaurants, but are also sold to the public at local Whole Foods Market locations, in addition to neighborhood farmer’s markets. While the Naked Cow Creamery produces traditional styles of cheese – such as brie, feta, and halloumi – they also add their own Hawaiian flair with flavors like Wasabi Furikake Fromage Blanc and Hawaiian Chili Pepper Havarti.
If you enjoy trying cheeses that are made with unique regional influences, then guava wood smoked goat’s milk cheese from Hawaii Island Goat Dairy is a flavor that you have to try. Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, this farmstead is nestled on the slopes of the now dormant Mauna Kea volcano. Once the location of a macadamia nut farm, goats from the Hawaii Island Goat Dairy feed on sweet flora, which helps to impart a truly unique “taste-of-Hawaii” flavor.
Goat’s milk cheese production is noticeably more common on the islands. However, cheesemaking in Hawaii is an art that can only be mastered by a select few who are truly dedicated to the craft. Hawaii’s damp, sub-tropical climate is perfect for growing lush grazing pastures for livestock, but the conditions are also perfect for growing unwanted bacteria. Cheesemakers in Hawaii have to be especially diligent with maintaining their tools and keeping a close eye on the ripening cheeses. When done properly, however, the results are award-winning. Take, for example, Surfing Goat Dairy on the island of Maui. With flavors like Maui Lavender Chevre and Lilikoi Quark, Surfing Goat Dairy has a wide selection of distinctly Hawaiian cheeses, known as their “Aloha Line”.
Some of Hawaii’s most iconic flavor profiles can be the perfect compliment to cheese. Whether you’re catching some waves at a Hawaiian beach, or simply surfing the Internet in an attempt to incorporate a little piece of the islands onto your cheese board, here are some great ways to bring paradise to your plate:
Coconut: Next time you make mac and cheese, consider substituting coconut milk for added sweetness. You could even add a touch of curry powder for a balancing bite.
Pineapple: Try this Pineapple-Tequila Goat Cheese Cake, and you’ve got the makings of your very own luau.
Kona Coffee: Cheeses and coffee make a sophisticated dessert duo, and Hawaiian Kona Coffee has a particularly nutty and slightly chocolaty flavor that will compliment any delicious cheese course.
Spam: We know, Spam is by far one of the least glamorous protein options out there. But for Hawaii’s locals, it is a favored ingredient. So the next time you’re making burgers, why not try something a little out of the box (or should we say, out of the can)? These Spamburgers with Swiss, grilled pineapple, and spicy mayo are unexpectedly delicious!Photo Credit: cooking.nytimes.com