Zucchini Garden Casserole

People don’t really use the term “longhorn cheese” anymore. But to really understand it, we need to revisit our cheesemaking discussion.

We talked about the basic mechanics of producing cheese in the post for chicken tacos from Ceres, California. You can read that if you want a longer explanation (or to read up on the history of Monterey Jack), but the short version is that cheese, as a category, is made by curdling milk, then separating the curds from the whey. Everything else that separates a Parmesan from a ricotta is a decision made by a cheese-maker somewhere before, during, or after that process.

The most popular cheese in England, and one that has been produced for at least eight centuries, is Cheddar. Named after a village in Somerset, Cheddar ages particularly well because it goes through a process that has come to be called cheddaring. The curds are cut repeatedly and packed, draining whey and raising the acidity of the remaining curds. The result is a cheese that ages particularly well, taking on a sharper, more crumbly texture as it gets older.

When we started making cheese domestically, many of our attempts began as local imitations of costly imported cheeses (something we touched on in the story of Liederkranz, mentioned in the recent post for Pizza Burgers). But there were exceptions.

One of those exceptions developed in the 1880s, when Joseph F. Steinwand’s experiments in his father’s Wisconsin cheese factory bore fruit. He started his process as if he were making cheddar, but instead of “cheddaring” the curds, he washed them with cold water. The water washed away sugars and lowered the acidity of the curds, resulting in a milder, softer cheese they named after the town the factory was in: Colby.

July 17, 1899 The Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)

Colby was, and often still is, formed in 13-pound long cylindrical molds called longhorns. After being formed, the longhorns would be covered in wax and sent to market, where the cheese would be further divided and sold as thick round slabs or, more commonly, cut into half-rounds.

So longhorn cheese is actually a shape, more than a type of cheese. Typically, however, one of three cheeses (or a combination of them) is found in this shape: Colby, Cheddar (particularly mild Cheddar), or Monterey Jack.

From a box sold in Nampa, Idaho.

Zucchini Garden Casserole

A fine sauce with this dish is plain yogurt, laced with chopped cucumber, seasoned with salt, pepper, and mint.

4 medium sized ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced.
4 zucchini (about 1-1/2 pounds), sliced
2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
2/3 c. long grain rice (uncooked)
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 c. each chopped green pepper and onion
1/4 tsp. each cinnamon, allspice, and pepper
1 c. tomato juice
1 c. shredded longhorn cheese

Grease 9″ x 13″ baking dish; arrange 1/2 the tomatoes on bottom. Arrange 1/2 the zucchini over the tomatoes and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. In bowl combine beef, rice, parsley, green pepper, onion, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and tomato juice; mix until well blended and pat into casserole.

Top with remaining squash, then tomatoes; sprinkle remaining salt on top. Cover and bake 375 deg. for 1-1/2 hours or until vegetables are tender. Remove cover; sprinkle on cheese; bake another 15 minutes.

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