MILKIngredients.ca
Canadian Dairy Commission

Common menu bar links

Monterey Jack and Colby

Overview

Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses are semi-firm washed cheeses that undergo similar preparation procedures. Monterey Jack is softer, creamier and whiter than Colby, and has a slightly nutty and tangy flavour. Monterey Jack is rumoured to have been created by Spanish monks in Monterey County, California, in the 18th century; however, like all great inventions, several other stories of its origin can be found. This cheese is also referred to as Monterey cheese, Jack cheese and California Jack cheese. Colby cheese originated from the town of Colby, Wisconsin. It is an orange cheese with a more open texture than Cheddar and has a lightly sweet to sharp and tangy flavour depending on how long it is aged.

In general terms, cheese is a concentrated food made from fluid cow’s milk. In the process of cheesemaking, the casein protein component of the milk is induced to coagulate. The network structure formed entraps the milkfat globules, but allows much of the water and soluble components (whey) to drain out. Typically, casein coagulation is induced by a combination of acid production by starter culture organisms and the action of the enzyme rennet. After coagulation, cheese undergoes a number of steps to separate the whey from the curd, followed by an aging step of variable length. The aging step allows characteristic flavour development due to microbial and enzyme activity.

Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses must be made from pasteurized milk (held at a temperature of 61.6°C for not less than 30 minutes or a time-temperature combination of equivalent lethality) since they undergo short aging periods (generally less than 60 days). These aging periods are not sufficient enough to create conditions unfavourable conditions for pathogen growth. Pasteurization of cheesemilk destroys pathogenic bacteria and reduces the population of other micro-organisms present, thereby promoting starter culture growth.  

Once the cheesemilk is prepared, starter culture is added to generate lactic acid from lactose, which, along with activity of added rennet, produces the casein coagulum. The coagulum is cut and then stirred and warmed to release the whey from the curd.  At this point, the whey may be partially or fully drained and replaced with cold water to achieve a final mixed temperature of 26C. The cold water leaches the lactose from the curd. The objective of this washing step is to reduce the amount of lactose to a level that permits lactic acid development to produce a minimum pH of 5.0 – 5.2. Other cheeses without the washing step may reach lower final pH levels, due to the increased lactose available for the bacteria to convert to lactic acid.  After washing, the whey/water is drained by piling curd at the sides of the vat. The curd should not mat during this procedure. The curd is then salted for flavour and preservative effects, pressed into blocks and left to age. The pressure used for Monterey Jack and Colby during this pressing step is less than that used for Cheddar, making these cheeses less firm. Monterey Jack is typically aged for 3 to 6 weeks, and Colby, for 1 to 3 months.  

Both Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses are used as ingredients in various foods to add sensory appeal, flavour and nutritional value. These cheeses are high in protein and each 30-gram serving provides a good source of calcium and a source of phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin and Vitamins B12, A and E. 


Features

Monterey Jack cheese is a popular cheese suitable for use in a variety of products and commonly used in Mexican and Southwestern dishes. The mild, slightly nutty flavour with a sweet/sour tang and good melting properties are keys to its sensory appeal. Monterey Jack is a semi-soft to semi-firm cheese due to its intermediate moisture content and its colour can be described as creamy to buttery white.

Colby cheese is another popular cheese suitable for use in the same food products as Monterey Jack, but it provides a different colour – orange – for sensory appeal. Colby is a semi-firm to firm cheese due to its lower moisture content and slightly longer aging period.   

 
Composition
 
  • The federal standards of composition for Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses are as follows:  

Variation

Maximum Moisture (%)

Minimum Milkfat
(%)

Colby

42.0%

29.0%

Monterey Jack

44.0%

28.0%


  • Typical compositions of Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses are as follows:

Variation

Moisture

Protein

Fat

Carbohydrate

Ash

Colby

38%

24%

32%

2.6%

3.4%

Monterey     Jack

41%

24.5%

30.3%

1.0%

3.6%


  • Lipid profile of Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses (g/100g of cheese):

Variation

Saturated fatty acids

Monounsaturated fatty acids

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

Cholesterol

Colby

20.2

9.3

1.0

0.095

Monterey     Jack

19.0

8.8

0.9

0.089


  • Vitamin and Mineral content of Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses (mg/100 g):

Vitamins and Minerals

Colby

Monterey Jack

 Sodium

604

536

 Potassium

127

81

 Calcium

685

746

 Phosphorus

457

444

 Magnesium

26

27

 Zinc

3.1

3.0

 Iron

0.76

0.72

 Copper

0.040

0.032

 Manganese

0.012

0.011

 Selenium

0.015

0.014

 Vitamin A

0.266

0.208

 Thiamin

0.015

0.015

 Riboflavin

0.375

0.390

 Niacin

0.093

0.093

 Vitamin B6

0.079

0.079

 Folate

0.018

0.018

 Vitamin B12

0.00083

0.00083

 Pantothenic Acid

0.210

0.210

 Vitamin C

0

0

 Vitamin E

0.350

0.340

Cheese is of high nutritional value due to its high concentration of proteins. Casein contains various levels of all the essential amino acids although it is relatively low in sulfur-containing amino acids. As a result, the protein quality of cheese is slightly less than that of milk, which retains the sulfur-rich whey proteins.  

In terms of microbiological standards, all cheeses made from pasteurized milk must contain fewer than 100 Escherichia coli per gram and fewer than 100 Staphylococcus aureus per gram.   


Application Based on End Use

Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses can be used in any number of products and their flavours complement spicy foods, fruit and meat and fish products. These cheeses are most commonly associated with Mexican and Tex Mex dishes such as tacos, fajitas and stuffed enchiladas.  

  • Casseroles and Baked dishes: Monterey Jack and Colby are excellent additions to casseroles and other baked dishes because of their mild flavour and good melting properties.

  • Soups, Sauces, Chili and Stews: Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses can be melted into soup, sauces, chili and stews to provide body and texture as well as a mild cheese flavour.

  • Mexican, Southwestern and Tex Mex dishes: Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses can be easily shredded and incorporated into prepared foods such as burritos and enchiladas, which may later be frozen and reheated by the consumer. These cheeses perform well with freezing and reheating and provide good melting characteristics in such products.
  • Pizza: Both Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses provide colour and flavour to pizzas when used in blends with mozzarella and other cheeses. They also have good melting properties for this application.
  • Corn bread: Monterey Jack is a welcome addition to corn bread and corn muffins; its flavour compliments this Southwestern classic baked product and melts nicely during baking.
  • Omelets and Quiches: The flavour and melting properties of both Colby and Monterey Jack make them excellent cheeses for omelets and quiche. Their flavours also blend well with other ingredients, such as meats and vegetables. 

Functional Properties
 
  • The moisture and fat contents of Monterey Jack and Colby make them excellent shredding cheeses. They are commonly used alone or in blends with other shredding cheeses on frozen pizzas or in retail packages of shredded cheese for home use.
  • When Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses are heated, they undergo browning, including the Maillard reaction of proteins with residual lactose. This browning can add visual appeal to cooked products.
  • The mild and slightly tangy flavour of Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses compliments many foods.
  • Monterey Jack has a light colour that attractively contrasts dark sauces.
  • Colby has an orange colour that contrasts well in toppings, particularly when it is mixed with white cheeses, including Monterey Jack.
  • Melted Colby and Monterey Jack can add viscosity to soups and sauces.
  • Both Monterey Jack and Colby cheeses have good melting properties, but these cheeses should not be overheated. Over cooking of cheese can cause fat separation and protein denaturation, which unfavourably alters the properties of the cheese, particularly related to texture and appearance.

⇒ Return to Ingredient Profiles list