Cheese straws aren't unique to North Carolina but, here at NC MADE, we think Ritchie Hill Bakery in Concord does them best. Founded by Heath Ritchie and his sister, Beth, in 2010, their family recipe has been in use for over 100 years.
The origin of cheese straws is much debated by scholars, but culinary historian John Martin Taylor tries hard to pin them down to the US and the south in particular. It's thought that they became popular here as a way to preserve cheese which came from the north with the advent of refrigerated railroad cars.
Most southern recipes are a standard mix of white flour (a flour made of NC soft red winter wheat is recommended), cheddar cheese, butter, and cayenne pepper. Some cooks add an egg yolk.
The Ritchies aren't sharing their recipe, but you can taste their cheese straws in a variety of NC MADE gift boxes. Heath Ritchie produces them in the kitchen of Cabarrus Creamery, a historic maker of ice cream that has been operating in downtown Concord since the early 1900s. (Their ice cream is excellent, and their Moon Pie flavor is one of Our State magazine's 100 NC foods you must try from each of our 100 counties. But I digress...)