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MSU Edam Cheese Is Holiday Tradition
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The resolute bulldog and cowbell are widely recognized symbols of Mississippi State University, but at the holidays, MSU's distinctive 3-pound Edam cheese "cannon ball" is not far behind.
During the holiday season, MSU sells more than 46,000 balls of Edam cheese. Another 5,000 are sold around Easter.
Noel Hall, MSU dairy plant superintendent, said the Edams have always been popular, but getting one was difficult in the early years.
"At one point, you had to have your name on a list to get the cheese and it was pretty much limited to alumni," Hall said. "Since the 1970s when we started to produce large amounts of Edam cheese, it became very popular at Christmas time."
The idea to make a cheese to represent MSU originated with dairy scientist F.H. Herzer in 1938. At that time, the area surrounding what was then Mississippi State College was one of the South's leading dairy centers. Herzer wanted a product that symbolized the college's work in support of the dairy industry.
The decision was made to manufacturer Edam. This was based on its distinctive shape, traditional quality and the fact that MSU would be the first to produce Edam in the South.
Edam originated in Holland, and Herzer placed a rush order with Dutch manufacturers for 10 teakwood hoops, or molds, in 1938. The order was shipped just before Dutch ports were closed by the outbreak of World War II.
The small number of hoops available for Edam production limited output to just a few hundred balls per year during and following the war years. As demand increased, production was expanded in 1957 with the purchase of 50 new hoops.
By 1963, production was up to 2,400 Edams a year and research had improved methods of aging, pressing and salting the cheese. The technique of dipping the Edams in bright red wax, which minimized surface mold growth and made the cheese more attractive, also had been perfected.
The addition of an airtight Cry-O-Vac plastic bag provided additional assurance of quality and permitted the Mississippi State seal to be placed on the product.
In 1970, the cheese-making operation moved into the new Herzer Dairy Science Facility and production capacity increased to 165 Edam balls per day.
Production capabilities have continued to increase and improve. Today, a team of full-time employees, food-science students, and researchers produce about 50,000 Mississippi State Edam cheese balls each year.