Getting good cheese can be an absolute culinary delight. However, with the countless varieties of cheese available for purchase, making a choice gets difficult. While some differences are easier, others get quite complex. For example, how can one differentiate between all the “Jack cheeses”? Where do we stand with pepper jack cheese vs Colby jack vs monterey vs cheddar jack?
For many of us, that’s just Jack cheese. But of course, there is a difference between all these varieties. In some cases it’s quite subtle, but it exists and is worth a look. Let’s take a deeper look to get a better understanding and know what the difference between all these types of cheese is.
Pepper Jack Cheese vs Colby Jack vs Monterey vs Cheddar Jack – The Quick Differences
Here are a few things to know about all these cheeses:
- They’re all made from cow’s milk.
- Monterey Jack cheese is an ingredient in all these cheeses.
- They’re usually medium to semi-hard cheeses that melt easily when cooking.
- Pepper Jack Cheese uses peppers like jalapeno for flavoring, while others are all cheese or cheese blends.
- Pepper Jack cheese is made from peppers and Monterey Jack cheese.
- Colby Jack cheese is made from Colby cheese and Monterey Jack cheese.
- Cheddar Jack cheese is made from Cheddar cheese and Monterey Jack cheese.
- Colby cheese has an orange-golden color. When mixed with Monterey Jack cheese, it takes on a marbled appearance to form the Colby Jack cheese.
Monterey Jack vs Colby Jack Cheese
Monterey Jack and Colby Jack cheeses deserve a special mention in our comparison because of their rather similar profiles. Both of these are mild, semi-hard cheeses made from cow’s milk.
Colby Jack cheese specifically is a combination of Monterey Jack cheese and Colby cheese. Monterey Jack is white, while Colby is more of an orange-golden color. To create Colby Jack, the curds of both ingredient cheeses are mixed (blended) before the aging process.
This way, both ingredients blend really well and create that wonderful marbling effect that has become the key characteristic of Colby Jack. Putting together the orange of the Colby and white of the Monterey Jack creates a rather interesting effect for the Colby Jack cheese.
A Quick Introduction To These Cheeses
What Is Monterey Jack Cheese?
Monterey Jack cheese is the key element for most of the key cheese types we’re looking at in this post. So it makes sense to start with Monterey Jack Cheese.
Monterey Jack is a semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk. It melts into a smooth and wonderfully textured cheese, which bodes well for its culinary uses. Better yet, Monterey cheese has a mild flavor, which doesn’t get in the way of other flavors that you might want for this cheese. That’s a big part of the reason why you’ll find several flavors and ingredients mixed with the classic Monterey Jack Cheese.
The cheese has a fairly interesting history, which also plays a part in its naming. Monterey cheese was originally produced in the Monterey county of California by Spanish missionaries and named “queso blanco pais”.
Around the late 1800s, a man called David Jack showed up on Monterey and bought much of the county through shady and questionable, yet legal means. Amongst other things, his acquisition included the land managed by the missionaries.
Seeing potential in the delicious melting cheese, he started selling it, while marketing it as “Jack’s Cheese”. With the passage of time, the cheese came to be known as Monterey Jack.
Eventually, more versions and mixes with this cheese cropped up, most of them using the name “Jack”.
So, that’s how we came to cheeses named Pepper Jack, Colby Jack, and Cheddar Jack. As the names imply, these are combinations of specific ingredients and cheeses with the Monterey Jack cheese. Let’s see how it all shapes up.
What Is Colby Jack Cheese?
Colby cheese originated in Wisconsin in the late 1800s and is named after the town where it was first made. The inventor of Colby cheese, Joseph Steinwand, worked with his family in their small factory near Colby, Wisconsin. Several types of cheese were produced at this factory, but they were mostly concerned with cheddar cheese.
Joseph Steinwand made a small change to the overall production process of cheddar. When making Colby cheese or cheddar, the process involves acidifying milk, adding rennet, and separating the curds from the whey.
For Colby cheese, the curds are then washed in cold water. This small change stops the further acidification of the curd, resulting in a cheese that’s sweeter and milder than cheddar. Conventionally, Colby cheese sees an aging process for one to three months. This too is lower than the process used to make cheddar.
Colby cheese has a wonderful orange or golden color, mild flavor, and lovely texture. The unique color of the cheese is usually due to the addition of Annatto.
Now, let’s get to Colby Jack cheese. As the name implies, it’s a mix of Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. However, it’s not the finished cheese products that are mixed. It is the curds produced during the manufacture of these cheeses that are blended together.
This mixing (blending) is the cause of the marbling effect where orange and white colors of both cheeses come together. This is followed by an aging process of two weeks. The result is a semi-hard and mild cheese that melts with ease and is a choice ingredient for toppings.
What Is Cheddar Jack Cheese?
As we know by now, Cheddar Jack cheese is a mix of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. Cheddar Jack is a wonderfully creamy and mild cheese that melts well and creates a lovely texture and delicious taste for your food.
Much like Colby-Jack, the production of Cheddar Jack sees the curds of both cheeses getting blended together during production. The presence of Monterey Jack neutralizes some of the sharp and pungent flavors of cheddar. Inversely, cheddar adds some flavor notes to the otherwise mild and neutral Monterey Jack.
Overall, this is an excellent and delicious combination. The two cheeses come together to form a wonderfully creamy and tasteful blend that we all know and love as Cheddar Jack Cheese.
What Is Pepper Jack Cheese?
Pepper Jack cheese is a bit different from other cheeses on the list. This one isn’t a combination or blend of two cheeses. Instead, it’s a mix of spicy peppers with Monterey Jack cheese. The peppers to be added can vary, depending on the preference or recipe of the manufacturer.
Usually, you can expect jalapenos, serrano peppers, or habaneros in the cheese. There’s an interesting effect to this combination – as the cheese ages, the flavor of pepper gets more intense.
Peppers add more flavor and heat to the otherwise mild and simple Monterey Jack cheese.
FAQ And More To Know About These Cheese Types
Is Monterey Jack Cheese Spicy?
Monterey Jack is not a spicy cheese. It has a fairly mild flavor and wonderful creamy texture. The cheese melts with ease, lending itself easily for use as a topping and in several other recipes. Made from cow milk, Monterey Jack is a semi-hard, creamy, and mild cheese.
Can Babies Have Colby Jack Cheese?
In food terms, Colby Jack cheese is considered to have moderate levels of sodium. Yet, this isn’t a sodium level to overlook, especially when serving cheese to babies. A good advice is to wait until the baby is at least 9 months old, before allowing them any Colby Jack Cheese.
Even then, it’s best to serve the cheese in moderation. Even if you have a low-sodium Colby Jack, it’s best to keep the serving of cheese small for the baby.
Is Cheddar Jack Cheese Spicy?
Cheddar cheese tends to have a sharp, pungent taste. However, things get different when it blends with Monterey Jack to create the Cheddar Jack cheese. Monterey is a mild cheese.
When mixed with cheddar, it helps neutralize the flavor profile a bit. The combination means that cheddar jack cheese isn’t spicy and though it still retains some of the sharp taste of cheddar, the flavor is more on the milder side.
Are Pepper Jack And Colby Jack The Same?
Colby Jack is a blend of Monterey Jack cheese and Colby cheese. Pepper Jack cheese is a mix of Monterey Jack cheese and hot peppers. The ingredients of both these cheeses are clearly different. Besides, Colby Jack is a mild cheese, while Pepper Jack can get spicy – thanks to the presence of pepper.
Enjoying The Cheesy Goodness
There are small differences when you compare Pepper Jack Cheese vs Colby Jack vs Monterey vs Cheddar Jack cheeses. However, the key remains that these are all delicious cheeses with an excellent texture and the ability to melt wonderfully when being cooked. They’re all excellent picks and quite worthy of your tastebuds. All these cheeses use the Monterey Jack cheese as a key ingredient and benefit from its creamy texture and mild flavor.