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eGullet poet laureate RachelD describes rat-trap cheese in a way that only a queenly Southern belle could.

Since I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line, the closest I could fathom to rat-trap cheese would be that ubiquitous, gelatinous substance known as Velveeta. But now I'm curious as all git-out.

Is rat-trap cheese good for noshing? Can you make an omelette with it? And if I ask for rat-trap cheese in a Yankee gourmet shop, will the staff hand me Velveeta and a can of Raid?

Edited by Fresser (log)

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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I'm a Yankee myself, but reading her description it sounds as if it has a different, more crumbly texture than Velveeta.

A search for "hoop cheese" or "rat trap cheese" on Google confirms that it probably isn't the same. This place in Vermont sells something labeled "rat trap cheese". If you can trust Wikipedia, this little stub is under the title "hoop cheese".

"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

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Well, my goodness, Kind Sir. If you ain't just turned my little ole head; yes, you have. (It DOES appear that a website the caliber of this one would have at least one "simper" smilie).

And Velveeta IS the Velveeta of the South, used in everything from tacos to mac and cheese to asparagus casserole to soup to grilled cheese to the creme de la creme: Rotel Dip.

A can of Rotel tomatoes, whatever Fahrenheit/Scoville you choose, most of a brick of Velveeta, and you're in business for any hors d'oeuvre party, wedding shower, or Preacher Pounding that side of the M/D. A pound or two of well-browned ground beef, and you can break out Mammaw's best silver chafing dish and invite your Congressman.

And there's a really handy gauge for describing levels of temper:

There's spittin' mad, and there's "it flew all over me," and there's "I could pinch his head off," as well as "so mad I could fly." REALLY bad occasions are reserved for "I could just go to bed and eat Velveeta right out of the box."

And there's always Miz Paula's Velveeta Fudge :shock:

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I'm more Yankee than Yankee -- I'm Canadian, and blessed with a father who supported "artisanal" cheese forty years ago. I remember driving up the Ottawa River to Mr. Gruff Cheesemaker's farm and watch Daddy haul a hundred pound wheel of cheddar into the trunk.

Rat-trap cheese in my father's lingo meant the hard, dessicated, inedible, ungrateable edges of a wedge of cheddar. It was literally good for nothing but to bait a rat trap.

Everything is local, especially language. What a beautiful thing.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

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1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The BEST kind, though, is found at The Smokehouse, down I-65 at the Pine Apple exit---you just know something in such a deliciously-named place must be good. We always pick up five pounds or so on the way down, set the whole thing on the dining table with a knife, and everyone who comes by shaves off a bit for snacking.

And at any meal---the cheese is still the centerpiece, and whoever has dropped in will just help themselves to a piece. It's like a foreign delicacy, though it's always available within forty miles of them. The cheese slowly dwindles, and is re-wrapped and bagged until it's just a shadow of its former glory.

By the time we've packed the car, had the last cup of Folger's, said our goodbyes, the cheese is a forlorn little slump, to be melted into a sandwich or onto a dish of pasta for those left behind.

And we pick up our OWN five pounds for the long drive home. Chris' trusty pocket knife will whittle us off a bit for munching with a Quik-Stop coke, as we talk the miles away, and it's nice to have that big ole hunka cheese in the fridge for days to come.

This is one on-line marketer of "hoop cheese" though all the pre-wrapping, bubble-kept effect is not conducive to the real feel of the cheese as it's opened with that whiff of secret alchemies going on within; nor do you get the generations-old feeling of the timelessness of the motions and scent as it's cut and crinkled toward you in the butcher paper. This one MIGHT do:

http://striplings.com/show_product.aspx?pr...38&categoryid=2

And perhaps they DO have one of these:

http://www.crackerbarrel.com/about-decor.cfm?doc_id=129

My own Aunt Lucy of the smalltown country store had a butcher block in the meat market section which must have counted for one felled sequoia---It spanned four feet or so, and was probably two feet thick, with a tidy little hanger at the side for all those worn-to-the-bone knives with blades slendered from years of use and honing on the big round stone.

And the millions of grooves in the surface should have been a hive of food-poisoning activity from all the tons of meat cut fresh-to-order on its worn surface, but I never heard of anyone's getting sick from it. Aunt Lucy's daily manning of the stiff brush and the pan of boiling Lysol water, then the hosing of the suds down the floor drain kept the place within whatever clean-code ruled the day.

She was a careful, fastidiously clean woman, of her person and of her work, and I remember her fondly, as she heaved that huge wheel of golden cheese from its container. She would choose the widest knife, grasp it in her wiry hand, and lean her entire hundred pounds into the effort of the blade. A great wedge would separate, and then the whisk of the paper being unrolled from the big reel, the skritch across the teeth of the cutter, like flipping a sheet off a bed.

And the wrapping of the unwieldy wedge, its shape struggling with the folds, is a sound I'll always remember. For a long time, there was string for the tying---a big roll of it wound intricately on itself, hanging from a ceiling hook and run through a line of little loops across the ceiling to keep it snarl-free. Later there was a heavy scroll of tape, such an innovative new convenience, though the string never left its little pinata-place in the ceiling.

Like wine, cheese memories grow even better with age.

Edited by racheld (log)
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Back in the late 1940's my Uncle Bo had a grocery store in Caldwell, Texas. There was always a big wheel of cheddar on a round table in front of the counter. Whenever my parents took me to the store, Uncle Bo would come around the counter and slice off a piece of cheese for me to munch, always including some rind since that was my favorite part. Everyone there referred to that wheel as "rat cheese." Much later I had friends who grew up in Houston who referred to any yellow cheddar as rat cheese. Slightly off topic, but I remember the popularity of American cheese in the 50's and 60's, usually dished out in the individually wrapped slices because it was so sanitary. My father baited a mouse trap with some of that stuff to catch a rodent seen in our garage in Austin, TX, circa 1957. We heard the snap of the trap during supper one evening and my brother and I ran out to find we had caught a roach the size of a mouse. Maybe that yellow substance should be called "roach cheese."

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Haven't heard of "rat-trap" cheese before.

Rachel the Ravishing Raconteur describes rat-trap cheese thusly:

Rat-trap cheese is exactly what you'd think---a goldy yellowy orange of a shade unknown in nature. Called HOOOOOP cheese by almost everyone I know, it springs full-blown from the brow of one of the lesser gods, one of the not-quite-graduated minor deities who still goofs up now and again, thus his relegation to cheese-springing and an occasional cat-in-a-tree snafu which goes unnoticed, except for irritating the cat.

The cheese is made of no natural product known to man---it has the texture of Play-Doh and comes in a box. The box is round and pale, made of thinly-shaved wood, which over the days of its residence atop the butcher case grows greasily stained and takes on the appearance of a harlot's hatbox, roughly handled and none too clean.

You ask about the cheese. Lid is popped loose, laid aside. Rustle of paper, removal of great wheel of cheese, worthy of a comic-book picnic, alongside the winebottle and basket of fruit. BIIIIG knife wielded, slivering off a see-through piece the size of a bank card, which is proffered on a knifetip like a saber. You sample, munching thoughtfully, pondering things, and nod.

"Bout a pound," you say. The huge knife descends, slicing through the gummy cake to bring forth a golden wedge pre-touched by Midas. Onto paper, onto scale.

You rustle it home in the sack, breaking off a crumble now and then as you put away the groceries. It's a perfect topping for a soda-cracker, sliced thin and almost square to fit, and the best accompaniment is an ice-cold Co-Cola, fished from the ice-and-frigid-water of a cooler alongside a fishing hole or up a deerstand. Carried all day in the pocket of a huntin' coat, with a sleeve of Premiums and a couple of juice-heavy Satsumas---that's a picnic easy to tote and nice to eat.

Sometimes by lunch, hip-warmth and weather have heated the chunk to an almost-transparent state, with little dews of oily sweat appearing across the surface. And leaving it uncovered altogether will result in a leather you could make shoes out of---chewy and rich with all the goodness distilled into that one mouthful of cheese-jerky.

And it does make a good rat-lure, if you have the need. A piece of that speared on the little catch-doohickey of a mousetrap has been the downfall of many a small rodent, with the siren-call of the aroma calling them from their little mouse-duties. And the good rich goodness of that heavy, waxy cheese---any mouse would think it worth the price.

The taste is incomparable to anything in any cook's lexicon. It's rich and homey and nutty and of a texture that calls for one-more-bite. Hoop cheese, rat-trap cheese, just cheese---as it's the only game in town in some stores in the South---it's maybe an acquired taste. But it's addictive, and I'm glad there's a bit left in the fridge.

With a cold apple---lunch.

What an eloquent, elegant woman, our Rachel D!

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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growing up on the east end of long island we had rat cheese or hoop cheese but not rat trap cheese. it was always a good, aged cheddar we would go to Dawson't Market to buy a pound or so to go with the apple pies we made when the northern spies came in the fall.

not oily but sometimes it would crunch a bit as there were small crystals in it.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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This is one on-line marketer of "hoop cheese" though all the pre-wrapping, bubble-kept effect is not conducive to the real feel of the cheese as it's opened with that whiff of secret alchemies going on within; nor do you get the generations-old feeling of the timelessness of the motions and scent as it's cut and crinkled toward you in the butcher paper.  This one MIGHT do:

http://striplings.com/show_product.aspx?pr...38&categoryid=2

Well now...

We'll be going right by Striplings on Saturday, after we deliver 11 greyhounds to our fabulous adoption friends from Atlanta! We schedule our meet-ups at Priester's Pecans, so I can replenish my stash of pecan meal, browse their cookbooks and stock up on other goodies.

Striplings has a gorgeous new store and I haven't been there yet. DH has munched there several times, but he doesn't "do" cheese! I'll be HAPPY to stop in and taste test their rat/hoop cheese. :raz:

I KNOW they have great housemade beef jerky (it's speecy-spicy), excellent bacon and good green tomato pickles. Anything else y'all want me to taste test?

Pam

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This is one on-line marketer of "hoop cheese" though all the pre-wrapping, bubble-kept effect is not conducive to the real feel of the cheese as it's opened with that whiff of secret alchemies going on within; nor do you get the generations-old feeling of the timelessness of the motions and scent as it's cut and crinkled toward you in the butcher paper.   This one MIGHT do:

http://striplings.com/show_product.aspx?pr...38&categoryid=2

Well now...

We'll be going right by Striplings on Saturday, after we deliver 11 greyhounds to our fabulous adoption friends from Atlanta! We schedule our meet-ups at Priester's Pecans, so I can replenish my stash of pecan meal, browse their cookbooks and stock up on other goodies.

Striplings has a gorgeous new store and I haven't been there yet. DH has munched there several times, but he doesn't "do" cheese! I'll be HAPPY to stop in and taste test their rat/hoop cheese. :raz:

I KNOW they have great housemade beef jerky (it's speecy-spicy), excellent bacon and good green tomato pickles. Anything else y'all want me to taste test?

Pam

Muscadine jelly, please. I've never lived down the time I threw out (after three years) the two gallon-bags of frozen muscadines I was keeping in the freezer for a relative. She was always going to "make some jelly when I get around to it---it's my favorite."

I'll just have them send her a coupla pints in penance.

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Muscadine jelly, please.  I've never lived down the time I threw out (after three years) the two gallon-bags of frozen muscadines I was keeping in the freezer for a relative.  She was always going to "make some jelly when I get around to it---it's my favorite."

I'll just have them send her a coupla pints in penance.

Ummm... okay... Or, I could just send her several gallons of muscadines (when they are in season again... now is not the right time)! :biggrin:

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How long does it take a Grovelgram to get from here to there? I'd stay prostrate at your feet for eons for some deep-South muscadines.

She's still pouting that I finally threw the wrinkly, ice-ridden, freezer-scented things out---I had made the mistake of putting up a couple of bushels of bell peppers, just one-minute-blanched halves cuddled together in bags, and the pepper-scent took over every item inside the freezer.

We had to do a suds-wash, a soda-wash, a set-the-little-fan-inside-for-an-hour-to-dry, and a BIGGGG crumple of several Sunday newspapers to sit for a couple of days before the smell dissipated. All is well now, but no muscadines :sad:

Thanks for the offer---that would be TERRIFIC---they live in GA.

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How long does it take a Grovelgram to get from here to there?  I'd stay prostrate at your feet for eons for some deep-South muscadines...

Thanks for the offer---that would be TERRIFIC---they live in GA.

They live in GA and they can't get muscadines??? They have them in every grocery store here, starting in August. Remind me in about 6 months and I'll send some off to wherever they need to go.

We just got home from our jaunt to Perry, GA and back, including the stop at Striplings. I have two kinds of hoop/rat cheese to sample and a jar of muscadine jelly. :biggrin: Pictures and taste-test results later. I'm still full from the big sausage-on-a-bun I got at Striplings. Their sausages are SO good! I love how they "snap" when you bite into them. :wub:

Pam

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Hooray for your good trip, and for the safe delivery of your lucky dogs. We applied for one once, but though we had many, many acres in which to run, and the house was at least a quarter-mile from the nearest blacktop, none of it had the required fencing. I'd have loved to have one of those delicate, dedicated, sweet creatures to come live with us.

A good tooth-snap is a most important criterion for a true Southern sausage. I can just hear it now.

A friend of mine used to make a particular treat for her children---strings of those tiny who-knows-what's-innum weenies, lifted in long strands from inside the cold case of the little country store, and which she referred to as "those good little poppin' kind."

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