I was first introduced to Tillamook Cheese via the espousing of the greatness of Tillamook Cheddar by Joe, a burger chef friend over at The Shack Cypress. Tillamook Cheese, for those new to it, is usually known for two things in the foodie community. The first is receiving lots of awards for their cheddar product and also that they were one of the first major sized cheese producers to enforce that all their member dairy farmers remove growth hormone from all of their livestock. To me, that’s good news for food, and went to check out their products. I found out later on that they had a Pepper Jack variety, but became distracted when I discovered that they also had Habanero Jack, so I picked up an 8 oz. brick of it to give it a try.
The ingredients of the cheese are basically what are needed to produce Monterey Jack style cheese, jalapenos and habanero.
The first impression of the cheese is that it appears to be fairly generous with the chile peppers, as there are flecks of green, red and orange all around and throughout the brick. There is a definite citrus aroma representative of habanero that lets you know this isn’t just a standard pepper jack. The bite is creamy and soft, but still slightly firm, so this could still shredded if needed, but it seems to slice better.
The heat level is definitely more than I anticipated, and there is a healthy amount of habanero flavor, not only in the flecks of chile, but throughout the body of the cheese as well. That said, a majority of the chile flavor still comes through as jalapeno. The heat level overall is a strong MILD, so I’m going with that rating, but there are moments when a burst of fire will hit you when biting through a habanero flake in which it strays in to the mid-medium heat level. The flavor is fairly typical of a Monterey Jack style, being fairly moist and a bit tart, which actually works very well with the citrus flavors from the habanero. For flavor, I’m going to give this a NICE. I’m not the largest fan of habanero versus other chiles, but in this combination it works very well.
This is definitely something to check out as an option for homemade burgers and quesadillas.