What does it take to make Jamaican Tastee Cheese? New Zealand cheddar cheese, that’s what.
The dairy corporation Fonterra (formerly the New Zealand Dairy Board) grinds, pasteurizes, and cans their cheddar before shipping it off to Jamaica labeled as “Tastee Cheese.” Despite the involvement of around 10,500 Kiwi dairy farmers, Tastee Cheese is distinctly Jamaican. It’s produced in flavors like jerk (a Caribbean spice blend) and Solomon Gundy (a Jamaican pickled fish pâté).
Classic Tastee Cheese is also an essential half of a classic Jamaican Easter food pairing. “Bun and cheese” features Tastee Cheese inside a Jamaican spiced bun, a Caribbean twist on the British hot cross bun. In the mid-1600s, colonists brought the tradition of eating crossed buns (to symbolize Jesus’ crucifixion) on Good Friday to Jamaica. Locals made a few tweaks to the recipe, including shaping it into a loaf, swapping out honey for molasses, and adding dried fruit. A slice of Tastee cheese in the middle now completes the holiday treat.
The inspiration for the pairing is unknown, but one thing is for certain: cheddar cheese and hot cross buns are neither Jamaican, nor eaten together. But Tastee Cheese and a spiced bun is as Jamaican as it gets.
Need to Know
Tastee Cheese is easy to find in Jamaican stores, bakeries, and cafes. It's harder to find everywhere else, but is sold in the U.S., in the U.K., and on other Caribbean islands.