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Eatymology: Creole Cream Cheese

Eatymology: Creole Cream Cheese
Written by Hayley Garrison Phillips | Photography by Shannon O'Hara

Creole Cream Cheese

[kree-ohl krēm CHēz]
n: a farmer’s cheese with a custard-like consistency and a mild and lightly sweet, tart flavor, popular in New Orleans and the Cajun farming community

On any given morning you would see them come out in droves. The dairy queens. Women hunched over stocked carts, shuffling along the city’s cobblestone streets, delivering milk, butter, cream, and perforated tins of Creole cream cheese to the just-waking citizens of New Orleans. Long before farm-to-table became a fad, the French and German dairy communities surrounding the city throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were delivering fresh product to the people on the daily, the most beloved of which was a unique, unaged and unripened farmer’s cheese known as Creole cream cheese. But the rise, fall, and subsequent revival of Creole cream cheese isn’t just a story about everyone’s favorite dairy product (as much as we adore a good cheese story). It’s a broader parallel for how industrialized farming shaped food trends throughout the latter half of the twentieth century and nearly stamped out so many precious niche food traditions. Despite its immense popularity and long history as a regional treat, Creole cream cheese had nearly gone out of circulation by the 1970s largely due to FDA and farming regulations favoring big agriculture. That all changed when Poppy Tooker took up the cause in 1999, and today producers like the Mauthe family’s Progress Milk Barn can barely keep up with production demands. Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to New Orleans to get your hands on it: Creole cream cheese is unbelievably easy to make. Simply serve with a dollop of cream, fresh fruit, or a sprinkle of sugar for a breakfast treat, or spread over a French loaf with freshly cracked ground pepper. It may be cheesy, but you’ll be doing your part to preserve culinary history.

Creole Cream Cheese

Strawberry Hand Pies with Creole Cream Cheese Ice Cream

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