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WSU Creamery Cougar Cheese

Why is the cheese in a can?

The WSU Creamery produces NATURAL cheese. In other words, it is NOT processed. In the 1930’s, the Creamery became interested in different ways to store cheese. Cans seemed the best option as plastic packaging materials had not been invented and wax packaging sometimes cracked, leading to contamination. One of the cheeses resulting from the research was Cougar Gold®. The tradition lives on. Click here for more history about the WSU Creamery.

How should I store the cheese?

Cougar Cheeses should be STORED UNDER REFRIGERATION.
Cougar Cheese may be transported at temperatures below 70° F for up to 10 days and should be refrigerated upon arrival. Once opened, do NOT store cheese in the can as the opened lip will rust and/or a black film will develop. This can get on the cheese and diminish the quality of the cheese. Remove cheese from the can and store in an airtight container. We recommend cutting into smaller pieces and individually wrapping each piece in plastic wrap. Life of the cheese is diminished each time it is handled and exposed to air. Storing cheese in the opened can or freezing it endangers the quality. High temperatures may damage the quality of the cheese. If the cheese in an unopened can is left out of refrigeration too long or exposed to high temperatures, it is still edible as long as the seal is good. There will most likely be a change in the texture of the cheese and moisture (whey) may be forced out of the cheese.

How long will the cheese last?

As long as the cheese is unopened and refrigerated it will last indefinitely. An unopened can of cheese becomes more flavorful, sharp, dry and crumbly with age. Our Natural Cheddar, Smoky Cheddar and Viking flavors may develop a bitter aftertaste, especially if over 2 years aged. Cougar Gold® does not become bitter with age. We know of customers who have stored their Cougar Gold® for over 30 years. Once opened, the cheese lasts similar to other store bought cheese, depending on how it is handled.

My can of cheese has puffed/bulged.  What’s going on?

Thank you for contacting us. As our cheese ages, it emits carbon dioxide. Eventually enough gas can build up to distend/bulge the can. The cheese is perfectly safe to eat and of the quality you would normally expect.

We recommend using the cheese sooner, rather than later as once this process begins, it will only continue until the seal is released.

Why did my cheese mold after opening?

Sanitary conditions in our production facility and airtight packaging usually prevents mold from growing on our cheeses. As long as the vacuum seal on our products is maintained, mold cannot grow. (NOTE:  The white residue on the cheese when opened is calcium lactate and NOT mold). After opening, mold may make an unsightly appearance due to factors such as how the cheese is handled and stored as well as temperature and humidity. Please know that while the mold that grows on our cheese is unsightly, it is harmless. Once opened, we say the cheese should last about 4-6 weeks (if not longer), but this is dependent on how the cheese is handled and stored. Please refer above to “How should I store my cheese” for our recommended storage method.

The USDA recommends the following if there is mold on hard cheese (our products are considered hard cheeses): Cut off at least 1 inch around and below the mold spot (keep the knife out of the mold itself so it will not cross-contaminate other parts of the cheese). After trimming off the mold, re-cover the cheese in fresh wrap.

For more information on molds on food please http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets/Molds_On_Food/

Why is the Cougar Gold® crumbly and hard to slice?

Cougar Gold® and our Natural and Smoky Cheddars are aged cheeses, aged for at least one year prior to shipping. With age, these cheeses become more flavorful, sharper, drier and crumbly. White-colored crystals (the amino acid tyrosine) will also be present throughout the aged cheese. These are all desired aspects of well-aged cheese. The more aged the cheese, the more prevelant these characteristics become. Some customers have aged our cheeses for over 30 years.
For easier slicing, we recommend bringing the cheese to room temperature and using a wire cheese cutter. The cheese breaking into crumbles allows for a unique presentation. Remember, this is not a processed cheese.

Can I freeze the cheese?

Freezing the cheese is not recommended because it will become more crumbly and harder to slice than normal. However, many of our customers do freeze the cheese. If you do freeze the cheese, thaw only the portion you will be using immediately in the refrigerator. Remember, if the can is unopened and refrigerated, it will last indefinitely and continue to age so freezing is not necessary.

What is the date on the lid for?

This is the date of manufacture (i.e. the date the cheese was sealed in the can). It is NOT an expiration date. If the cheese is unopened and refrigerated, it should last indefinitely. Some of our customers have aged the cheese for over 30years. As the cheese ages it becomes more flavorful, more crumbly and develops amino acid crystals. These are all desired aspects of well-aged cheese.

How do I open the cans?

Use a sturdy, clean can opener and open like any other can. To get the cheese out of the can, turn the can upside down and wiggle it back and forth. You may need to run a knife around the edge of the cheese or cut a wedge out of the cheese to get it out of the can.

How big is the can?

Each can contains 30 ounces of cheese and the dimensions are 6″ in diameter and 2.25″ in height.

Are lids provided to fit and cover open cans?

Although we provided lids for a short period of time, we discovered that the cut edge of the opened can rusted and contaminated the cheese. This would diminish the quality and life of the cheese. Therefore, we quit providing lids and strongly discourage using them. However, if you still prefer to use a lid, a large coffee can lid fits well.

How is the cheese shipped and how much is shipping and handling?

We ship via UPS and USPS to street addresses within the lower 48 states. Deliveries to Alaska, Hawaii, Territories, APO’s, DPO’s, FPO’s and PO Boxes are shipped through the USPS using Priority Mail. Priority Overnight delivery is available through Federal Express (FedEx is not available to PO Boxes, APO/DPO/FPO addresses or U.S. Territories.
Click here for shipping information.

How do I track a package?

If you provide us an email at the time of the order, when the order is shipped, you will receive a shipping confirmation containing your tracking information.
OR
You can track a package through our Online Ordering website if:

You placed the order using an account containing your email and password, and;
The package was shipped with UPS or US Postal Service. We do not currently have online tracking information available for FedEx.

  • Go to cougarcheese.wsu.edu
  • Log in with email and password for the account order was placed on
  • Click CONTINUE on the “Your Information” page
  • In the upper right corner, click the link for ORDER STATUS/TRACK
  • Click on the order number you would like to track
  • In the “Shipping to” section, if the status is “SHIPPED”, there should be a TRACK IT button. Click on the TRACK IT button of the package you would like to track
  • You should be sent to the UPS/USPS tracking information

Why don’t you ship internationally?

Unfortunately, we no longer ship internationally. We do still ship to APO/DPO/FPO addresses. There are many reasons we no longer offer this service: extra duties being charged to customers, damage/loss of product, increased customs restrictions, etc…. International service may still be available to you as an individual through the Post Office, UPS or other carriers. Please check with your preferred carrier for restrictions, lists of countries and other requirements for international shipping. We can ship the cheese to you and you may be able to ship it internationally.

How long will it take my order to reach me?

  • Under normal conditions, orders placed before 12pm Pacific Time, ship the same day and should arrive within a week (possibly sooner based on location). Orders placed after this time typically ship the next business day. During busier times (i.e. December) shipping time make take slightly longer.
  • With standard shipping, the cheese should be delivered within
    one week (if not sooner) after the order is received at the WSU Creamery. Express service is available for faster delivery
    (Express does not deliver to PO Boxes, APO/DPO/FPO addresses or U.S. Territories).

What is the price for Cougar Cheese?

The current price for standard flavors of Cougar Cheese is $22.00 per 30 ounce can. Occasionally, we may have special flavors that may be a different price.

What sizes of Cougar Cheese are available?

All cheeses come in a 30 ounce can. We do not sell smaller cans for several reasons: we would have to purchase all new equipment, production costs would increase and we sell out our cheese in its current size.

Which cheese is the most popular?

By far, our most popular cheese is Cougar Gold®. Other popular flavors include Smoky Cheddar, Dill Garlic and Crimson Fire.

When do I need to order to ensure that the cheese will arrive by Christmas?

Cougar Cheeses are popular holiday gifts and it is common to run out of flavors. We need to receive your order by November 30th to guarantee Christmas delivery. We accept orders after that time, but cannot guarantee that they will arrive by Christmas.

Can I send gifts to different addresses?

You can send gifts to as many different addresses as you would like, but if there are over three different addresses please order online or submit your order by mail or fax to ensure accuracy.

Are enclosures provided?

Gift messages are printed on each package label going to a gift recipient. Unless you request a special message, it will read “A Gift from: your name.” Each gift package comes with an insert telling about our cheese and a magnet.

Which wines should be served with Cougar Cheese?

Visit our Cheese and Wine page to help you make a selection.

Can I fly with Cougar Cheese in the can?

Cougar Cheese may be outside refrigeration for short periods of time during transportation. There are no restrictions for Cougar Cheese on the TSA website. From our employees’ personal experiences and through discussions with customers, Cougar Cheese can be carried on or checked in luggage. However, the WSU Creamery can not be responsible for decisions made by TSA agents. We recently heard from a customer that a TSA would not let the cheese through security.

Can I take the cheese with me when I go sailing?

We recommend storing all our cheeses under refrigeration and are not responsible for quality loss due to storage temperatures falling outside the 40-50° F range. Viking based cheeses will suffer the most from variations in storage temperature. Cougar Gold®, Natural Cheddar and Smoky Cheddar will be less affected by improper storage. Since refrigeration is not always feasible, taking these steps will insure a better product: (1) Store the cheese below the waterline on the boat. The colder and more constant the temperatures the better. (2) Check cans periodically for bulges and rust. (3) If mold is present, discard the cheese.

What kind of milk do you use?

We only use cow milk and the WSU dairy herd currently consists of holstein cows.

Is your cheese Kosher?

We only use cow milk for our cheese. Our cheese may meet kosher requirements but it is not certified as kosher.

Is your cheese gluten free?

Yes. There are no grain products in any part of the cheese making process. Some ice cream flavors (Apple Cup Crisp, Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream) contain gluten.

I am lactose intolerant, can I eat your cheese?

During the cheese-making process, after the whey (where most of the lactose is) is separated out from the curd in the milk, natural aging breaks down any remaining lactose. Aged cheeses (especially our Cougar Gold, Natural Cheddar and Smoky Cheddar, contain 0 grams of lactose.

What is rennet and what kind do you use?

Rennet is a coagulating enzyme used to curdle milk, causing clumps (curds) to form and separate from the liquid (whey). We use Chy-Max. A standardized solution of 100% fermentation produced chymosin. Fermentation refers to yeast or bacterial activity. It is not from an animal.

Does the WSU Creamery use rBST treated milk?

In February, 2008 the Knott Dairy, Department of Animal Sciences at Washington State University, stopped using rbST in its dairy herd. This move was in response to the milk marketing options available in eastern Washington. Questions regarding this issue should be directed to: Dr. Margaret Benson, Chair, Department of Animal Sciences. The FDA has determined that no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-supplemented and non-rbST-supplemented cows.

Why don’t you make Bleu or Swiss cheese?

The molds used for making Bleu cheeses can spread throughout a production facility and contaminate other cheeses. Bleu cheeses are generally produced in a different facility than other cheeses.

The holes in Swiss cheese are created by gases which develop from the cheese during aging. Cougar Cheese was created to produce little to no gas during aging so it could be stored in the can. If Swiss cheese were stored in the can, the can would burst open from the gases produced.

Why don’t you accept American Express?

Washington State University does not have contracts with American Express. As part of the university, we are subject to the rules the administration puts forth. We are working to get American Express added for use in ordering. Thank you for your patience. We do accept VISA, MasterCard and Discover.

Where is WSU/Pullman?

Pullman is located in the southeast corner of Washington state, 8 miles from the Idaho border, and about 80 miles south of Spokane, Washington. Pullman is about 300 miles east of Seattle. Click here for a map.

Can I buy Cougar Cheese in stores?

Cougar Cheese is available on the Pullman campus at
Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe. In the event Ferdinand’s is closed, the following Pullman locations generally have our cheese:
Brelsford WSU Visitor Center
Crimson and Gray
Dissmore’s
Holiday Inn Express
Safeway
WSU Student Bookstore (Bookie)

Outside of Pullman, Cougar Cheese may be purchased at WSU Branch Campus Bookstores located in Spokane, Richland and Vancouver. It is also sold at the Washington State Connections store, located in downtown Everett and Spokane. Other retailers may have our cheese as well. We recommend calling ahead for availability at these locations. Prices at locations other than Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe vary and are generally higher as they receive no discount prior to their markup.