Although Clemson Blue Cheese has never been a profit-making venture, it has earned excellent reviews from food critics and has been a popular public-relations tool, spreading the Clemson name around the globe.
In 1940 a Clemson College dairy professor wondered if he could cure blue mold cheese in the dark, cool, damp interior of Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel near Walhalla in Oconee County, similar to the way Roquefort cheese is cured in caves in France. His goal also was to use surplus milk from local cows, including Clemson’s own herd. After two years of limited production, cheese making was halted due to shortages of supplies and personnel during World War II. It resumed in 1953 after Clemson purchased Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel. That year Clemson’s dairy department produced approximately 2,500 pounds of blue cheese. They manufactured the cheese on campus and then took it thirty miles to the tunnel to cure.
Difficulties maintaining sanitary conditions in the tunnel, particularly during warm summer months, as well as its distance from campus limited the tunnel’s usefulness. In 1958 the university moved the cheese-making process to air-conditioned cheese rooms in the campus’s new food-industry building Newman Hall. Clemson continued to produce its namesake cheese on a limited basis, increasing production to approximately 20,000 pounds annually by 1980 and 43,000 pounds by 2003. Through the years university faculty and students have experimented with ways to improve the production, packaging, and marketing of the cheese, which has been sold on campus, through mail order, and, at times, in limited markets. Clemson Blue Cheese Dressing was introduced in 1998.
Clemson Blue Cheese is an “artisan cheese,” produced by hand with no preservatives and using milk specially processed with a high fat content. Each 288-gallon vat makes about 240 pounds of cheese. The cheese is salted, waxed, and then aged for six months before each hoop is scraped and packaged. Although Clemson Blue Cheese has never been a profit-making venture, it has earned excellent reviews from food critics and has been a popular public-relations tool, spreading the Clemson name around the globe.
Clemson University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. “Clemson Blue Cheese.” http://www.clemson.edu/foodscience/ bluecheese.htm.