100th-anniversary-badge1I grew up just over the mountains from Tillamook, Oregon, home to the Tillamook Cheese Factory. Crossing the coast range, the sight of dairy cows grazing in the valley – and their distinctive, uh, fragrance – was the first sign that we were nearly to the Coast. And of course, no visit to the Coast would be complete without a visit to the factory to watch the signature orange blocks of cheddar roll off the line, sample the curds and newest cheese varieties, and enjoy a giant scoop of fresh Tillamook ice cream in a waffle cone. (My favorite flavor is Marionberry Pie, closely followed by Mountain Huckleberry.) This past summer, we took my son for his first visit. He and my niece were facinated by the cheese bricks carried along conveyor belts, and didn’t complain about having to eat ice cream, either. A family tradition we’ll continue for many years!

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Tillamook County Creamery Association (and my little sister’s birthday, too – Happy Birthday, K!). Tillamook has been farmer-owned since 1909, and led the dairy industry in banning artificial growth hormones (rBST) all the way back in 2005. I’m sorry we won’t be able to sample the special anniversary white cheddar, aged three years and being released today at the factory, but will break open one of our vintage extra sharp cheddar logs we bring back from our annual visit. We can get only the most basic varieties of Tillamook in our local grocery stores, so we always stock up on the others on our annual trek west. Also for the anniversary, Tillamook has released a beautiful new cookbook which I look forward to getting my hands on on my next trip home. I have a vintage Tillamook cookbook, loaded with recipes for cheesy canapes, seafood casseroles and other recipes from the 1930s (originally published in 1935!)

If you’re in Oregon, visit the Tillamook fan site for a schedule of centennial events, or join their fan club on Facebook. (Psst, find us on Facebook, too!) And if you need more reason to love Tillamook, here are a few Tillamook cheese recipes from around the web: