Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rat Cheese

You know you want some.

I've milked cows before. It's not easy. They've been walking in their own manure. They kick as well as any horse and some can only stand the milkers for so long. Milking a rat can not be any easier. I hear the "rat milking" stools are tiny and it's nearly impossible to attach the milker to all 8 teats.

Nevertheless - Rat Cheese is sold on the southern slopes of the Great Smokey Mountains.We passed this sign on our way to the Great Smokey Mountain Train Ride in Bryson City, NC. Located on the Cherokee Reservation, the roadside market sold boiled peanuts and jams made from everything from papaya to kudzo. But most noticeably they sold Rat Cheese.

We stopped on our return trip - our imaginations running through a maze trying to find the elusive answer to the query - what is "Rat Cheese".

The woman behind the register - who looked as if she had stood over a boiling pot of peanuts since the Trail of Tears offered as much of an explanation as the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.

"It's Cheddar"

The locals call it "Rat Cheese" but it's a "ring cheese" that comes from milkin' cows. Why Rat Cheese? She wasn't sure but it gets both rat aficionados and cheese lovers like ourselves to stop if for nothing but curiosities sake.

Here in south Florida we do the same. Go to any restaurant that serves seafood and no doubt they serve Dolphin, mostly to shock the tourists - but it's not the mammal but the fish - aka Mahi Mahi. Sound good? Would you like to start off with a Rat Cheese fondue?


  1. My theory:
    It's bait-grade cheese.
    It's cheese like Cabot was making in the 50's when I first tasted it.

    Analogous to have-a-heart peanut butter.

  2. Giant Gambian rats are somewhat easier to milk than our domestic, white rats.

  3. My first taste of rat cheese was from a little store in Garber OK 1973. The cheese was very crumbly and could not be easily sliced. You could break off pieces by hand and the breaks looked liked a cottage cheese texture. The closest I have found to it since is colby longhorn. The rat cheese was delicious, colby longhorn just okay.