Since its humble beginnings, Clemson Blue Cheese has been welcomed into the hearts and homes of cheese connoisseurs. In 2009, it ranked among the best in the nation at the 15th biennial U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay, Wis., and after 76 years remains a Southern staple.
Its history dates back to 1940, when a Clemson dairy professor cured the cheese in the damp air of the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel near Walhalla, S.C. Production was moved in 1958 to Clemson’s Newman Hall, where air-conditioned ripening rooms replicate the temperature and humidity of the unfinished railroad tunnel, originally the Blue Ridge Railroad’s vital link from the Charleston port to the fertile Midwest. The project began in 1852 but North-South hostilities in 1859 halted its progress. After the Civil War, attempts to reactivate the project failed and the tunnel was abandoned.
Clemson purchased the tunnel in 1951, and Operation Blue Cheese continued experimentally. Milk from the college’s Brown Swiss and Holstein herd was used to make the cheese, first produced on campus and then driven 30 miles to cure in the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel. That continued until 1956 with the opening of the much-anticipated Agricultural Center in Newman Hall.
In 1958, blue cheese production from start to finish was done on campus and still is. Clemson Blue Cheese is made the old-fashioned way using milk from a Clemson alumni farm, Hickory Hill Dairy in Edgefield, S.C., then salted, waxed and aged for six months. When ready, every hoop is scraped and packaged by hand.
Clemson Blue Cheese is available for purchase on campus, online, Ingles Markets and select specialty food stores.
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