The Tragic Way Monterey Jack Cheese Got Its Name

It’s clear that Americans love their cheese, from cheddar to mozzarella, with the average person consuming more than 40 pounds of it a year. Today, many of the cheeses we eat date back only a few hundred years, including the born-in-the-USA Monterey Jack. What most people don’t know is that the cheese was named after a ruthless, corrupt landowner. In 1848, Mexico sold California to the United States at a bargain basement price of $15 million. Americans began pouring into the new state, most looking for gold. Then there was Scottish businessman David Jack. He settled in Monterey, where he teamed up with attorney Delos R. Ashley to buy 30,000 acres of land for a mere $1,000. With his new acquisition of land, Jack worked to maximize his profits. He charged obscene taxes to renters and foreclosed on properties, sometimes posting notices in English to intentionally confuse Spanish-speaking farm owners. On Jack's land, there were cattle ranches, vineyards, and 14 operating dairies. According to Jack, everything they made, he owned — including the popular white cheese queso blanco país. Realizing the marketability of the cheese, Jack began selling it throughout Monterey with his name slapped on it, "Jack's Cheese." Soon the cheese became so popular that people were eating it across California — all of them asking for "Monterey Jack's cheese.” Eventually the “s” was dropped and the cheese became known as Monterey Jack. So, the next time you sprinkle some of the white, mild cheese on nachos, take a moment to think about one of the biggest crooks in the country who made it possible.