Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

In praise of cheap cheese


Recommended Posts

"American cheese" isn't any one thing. It can range from processed cheeses and "cheese foods" like Velveeta, Cheez Whiz and Easy Cheese, to cheeses that I think taste pretty good like the Borden Deluxe and Applegate Farms American cheeses (the Applegate contains only "Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt").

Today I bought a pound of sliced Muenster cheese from the deli counter at the market where I usually shop. It was $3.99 a pound. I asked to see the block and the ingredients were just milk, salt, enzymes and annatto which I suppose is for the orange exterior color.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites
I can buy the utility of deli Swiss, Muenster, and Provolone, but I hate American "cheese." Yuck!

You mean the wiggly orange slices? Worse than that is, well it's American Swiss. It's wiggly white Swiss wanna be. They use it on the cheesesteak sandwiches at Lenny's. Double yuck.

Link to post
Share on other sites
"American cheese" isn't any one thing. It can range from processed cheeses and "cheese foods" like Velveeta, Cheez Whiz and Easy Cheese, to cheeses that I think taste pretty good like the Borden Deluxe and Applegate Farms American cheeses (the Applegate contains only "Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt").

Today I bought a pound of sliced Muenster cheese from the deli counter at the market where I usually shop. It was $3.99 a pound. I asked to see the block and the ingredients were just milk, salt, enzymes and annatto which I suppose is for the orange exterior color.

Yeah, annatto contains an orange pigment.

I always thought American "cheese" was just a so-called "cheese food." But what it really is to me is absolutely murdered cheddar. I've always liked my cheddar extra sharp.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Apparently you need a dog

Yep! I have our beagle well trained. When I yell "Clean up!", she comes runnning. It amuses the relatives.

I definitely like Land o' lakes white American. Good on cold sandwiches, good for melted cheese sandiwiches, good for cheesesteaks etc. The additional processesing required for American really does let it melt better. Interestingly, I prefer the land o lakes to the fancy brands I sometimes see at the deli. Maybe because I can't taste the price difference. Sliced cheddar I have mixed luck with. I feel like the more deli cheddar is aged, the weirder it tastes (more "American-ness"), which is very different from the little blocks of cheddar you buy in the cheese section. Perhaps its the brand of deli cheddar our supermarket stocks...

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's also versatile. I once worked in what was at the time considered to be an upscale bistro (upscale in the context of the small rust belt blue-collar city I lived in). The big bricks of Kraft Swiss that worked so nicely on our Ham and Swiss sandwich also did yeoman's duty as the "Imported Gruyere Cheese" that was melted onto our French Onion Soup :rolleyes: Imported from Wisconsin methinks.

Lately I have on occasion been enjoying some supermarket flavored cheeses such as Jalapeno, Bacon and Horseradish etc. As a straight eating cheese they don't hold up well but melted into omelets, eaten on a cracker with a smear of Dijon... not bad.

The first few flavored cheese I tried were medicore btu I switched ot the Yancey's brand - which appears to be akin to a real cheddar rather than being processed cheese food. And it's not bad.

That said - I made a grilled cheese last week from the last my extra sharp Canadian XXX Black Diamond cheddar and this weekend I made one from a relatively cheap NY state cheddar that is supposed to be similarly aged but is much cheaper. No contest - the Black Diamond blows away the other cheese for tangy sharpness and also has a crumbly texture that makes it far superior if eaten by itself. (note: I have had NY state cheddar that's every bit as good as the Black Diaomnod but it's not available in the lcoal grocery stores).

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Land O Lakes American cheese for a classic, American cheese on white bread, grilled cheese sandwich. Melts very nicely, as opposed to other brands which just get a bit soft. Oh, and I also like those 'gruyere' cheese foil-wrapped triangles and an apple for an easy, 'don't have to think about it' lunch.

Edited by JanMcBaker (log)
"Fat is money." (Per a cracklings maker shown on Dirty Jobs.)
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, I have fond memories of those Laughing Cow Cheese Bites... little tiny cubes of white "cheese," individually wrapped with the tiny tab that, when pulled, unzipped the foil wrapper all the way around. Squishy, squeezy, and oh-so-good, but portioned out in small amounts by mom, since these were not an everyday purchase. I distinctly remember a friend and I declaring that when we grew up, we were going to eat Cheese Bites every day for lunch. I think we were seven. :biggrin:

Also, that Hoffman's smoked cheddar, the kind with the brown diamond pattern on the sides. Yum.

Link to post
Share on other sites
"American cheese" isn't any one thing. It can range from processed cheeses and "cheese foods" like Velveeta, Cheez Whiz and Easy Cheese, to cheeses that I think taste pretty good like the Borden Deluxe and Applegate Farms American cheeses (the Applegate contains only "Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Cream, Sodium Citrate, Salt").

Today I bought a pound of sliced Muenster cheese from the deli counter at the market where I usually shop. It was $3.99 a pound. I asked to see the block and the ingredients were just milk, salt, enzymes and annatto which I suppose is for the orange exterior color.

Yeah, annatto contains an orange pigment.

I always thought American "cheese" was just a so-called "cheese food." But what it really is to me is absolutely murdered cheddar. I've always liked my cheddar extra sharp.

There is no such thing as non-processed American cheese. It may not be labeled with the word "process" (not "processed"), but American cheese is by definition processed--it's a combination of either natural cheeses or the ingredients that make them up and emulsifiers. The emulsifiers are what give it its superior meltability; the fat in natural cheese eventually separates out when heated.

Because of the added ingredients and emulsifiers, process cheese cannot have the same degree of sharpness as natural cheese. Cooper Sharp and some sharp process Cheddars (such as the Master Choice store brand sold at my local Super Fresh) come close, though.

The wording on the label, at least in the United States, is actually a guide to the ratio of cheese to emulsifiers and additives. The hierarchy, from cheesiest to most additive-laden and watered down, is:

American cheese

Pasteurized process American cheese

Pasteurized process American cheese food

Pasteurized process American cheese spread

as explained in Title 21, Section 133, Subsection 169 of the Code of Federal Regulations ("21 CFR 133.169"). The definitions are guaranteed to either put you to sleep or leave you slightly confused. They do include the list of cheeses that are required before a cheese can be called "American"; at least one cheese from the list must be part of the product.

Yeah, in general, processed cheese sliced at the deli beats prepackaged cheese slices, but I've had a few brands of individually wrapped slices that I think hold their own, in particular Heluva Good.

American cheese is what it is. You either like it or hate it, but it's true that nothing melts better.

I think I've already sung the praises of the blocks of America's Choice New York State extra sharp Cheddar elsewhere. Master Choice American cheese isn't as good as New Yorker (now a Land O'Lakes brand), and neither of them are as good as Clearfield, IMO. (I think I need to re-evaluate Dietz & Watson and Boar's Head American soon.)

Boar's Head has a deli double Gloucester cheese, BTW. It's a good bit milder than the genuine article. I prefer the Master Choice processed "ultra sharp" Cheddar to this cheese; the only problem with the Master Choice cheese is that it tends to crumble when sliced real thin.

And if you're reading this, mizducky, you were absolutely right about Laughing Cow Light.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites
There is no such thing as non-processed American cheese.  It may not be labeled with the word "process" (not "processed"), but American cheese is by definition processed--it's a combination of either natural cheeses or the ingredients that make them up and emulsifiers.  The emulsifiers are what give it its superior meltability; the fat in natural cheese eventually separates out when heated.

Show me the emulsifiers in Applegate Farms American cheese. Here's the product description on the manufacturer's website -- http://www.applegatefarms.com/am_cheese.shtml -- and you can click from there to see the ingredients.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites
There is no such thing as non-processed American cheese.  It may not be labeled with the word "process" (not "processed"), but American cheese is by definition processed--it's a combination of either natural cheeses or the ingredients that make them up and emulsifiers.  The emulsifiers are what give it its superior meltability; the fat in natural cheese eventually separates out when heated.

Show me the emulsifiers in Applegate Farms American cheese. Here's the product description on the manufacturer's website -- http://www.applegatefarms.com/am_cheese.shtml -- and you can click from there to see the ingredients.

Sodium citrate is not an artificial ingredient, but it is something not ordinarily found in natural cheese. According to Wikipedia, it's also known as "sour salt" and used as a flavoring agent or preservative.

You are right, though--there are no emulsifiers in this cheese. Strike what I said above about emulsifiers. I stand by the rest of my statement about American cheese being processed--but will also note that 21 CFR 133.169 is just confusing enough that it looks to me like a cheesemaker could just take a chunk of Cheddar or Colby and slap a label reading "American cheese" on it.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites

So...not that any other country would WANT to produce American Cheese, but is the term American Cheese protected, or could a Canadian or Bulgarian cheese company produce and label American Cheese?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I also left off the bottom of the processed cheese hierarchy from my earlier post.

The lowest quality grade of processed "cheese" is

Pasteurized processed (or prepared) cheese product

Any resemblance between this foodstuff and actual cheese is coincidental, in my experience.

Edited to add: It appears that the primary distinction between processed cheese and natural cheese is that the former has at least extra salt(s) added to it and is heated before cooling into a loaf. It apparently keeps longer than natural cheese as well, according to the brief history of Kraft process cheese on Kraft's Web site. J.L. Kraft obtained a patent for process cheese in 1916. I have seen some restaurant menus that referred to processed cheese as "Kraft cheese"; I assume that these days, that means they are using processed cheese made by Kraft.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites
So...not that any other country would WANT to produce American Cheese, but is the term American Cheese protected, or could a Canadian or Bulgarian cheese company produce and label American Cheese?

I am going to guess that it's not protected anymore than Swiss Cheese and will remain easily corrected if I guessed wrong.

...Pasteurized processed (or prepared) cheese product

Any resemblance between this foodstuff and actual cheese is coincidental, in my experience.

It's an acquired taste. I've only half acquired it.

Need to be desparate for something quick to eat.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sometimes nothing makes me happier than a chunk of Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp cheddar cheese  :raz:

Hold on there, pardner.

That cheese isn't processed! :biggrin:

Cabot's Vermont cheddar with horseradish, OTOH, is, which is unusual for them.

Edited to add footnote: I purchased a half pound of Boar's Head Super Sharp American at a new deli near me this past Saturday. While it is sharper than regular American, it isn't as sharp as Cooper Sharp, which in turn is not as sharp as sharp (unprocessed) Cheddar. Hoffman's Super Sharp Cheddar, which is also a processed cheese, comes closer in this department. (You can get just about the same product at A&P-family supermarkets by asking for Master Choice Ultra Sharp cheddar.)

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites

We eat supermarket cheese all the time. Why not? "Fancy" cheeses are good, but I say keep them special, and enjoy them fully when you do get them. That doesn't mean, though, that just any supermarket cheese will do.

Of course, in Australia cheddar is always white. I LOVE telling Aussies about orange cheese, which they think only comes on McDonald's burgers. My first trip to the supermarket here: staring dumbly at banks of white bricks labelled "Tasty", wondering where the normal cheese was! I thought Tasty might be code for 'processed'; it turns out it just means medium-aged.

We like Bega and Mainland the best in the cheddar department. Aged for me please. The flavour is excellent - it goes nicely on hard rye, or in a toasted sandwich. Nimbin 'Elbo-style' is quite nice too, especially on a sandwich with some double-smoked ham. We stay right away from those curious rubbery white hockey pucks sold as brie or camembert though. And I'm not fond of Devondale, which is too soft and rubbery.

I hate processed cheese (we get it here too, although outside of McDonald's it's always white). I don't care how well it melts, it still tastes like an industrial chemical accident to me. Don't even ask about cheese whiz or Kraft Dinner - I may never be allowed back into Canada if my true feelings are known!

Snadra

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was always amazed/amused by the fast food chain commercials in Canada that referred to American cheese as Processed cheese....so honest, so unappealing. So, I guess that answers the question about what they call American cheese in Canada.

Me, I can't stand the stuff, but I am now tempted to try the Applegate brand.

Link to post
Share on other sites

In case any of you tried parsing 21 CFR 133.169 yourselves:

The folks who invented process cheese explain it all for you. Including the percentage of actual cheese in each of the categories.

Now to confuse things further:

I was at the deli counter this afternoon, picking up some cheese for sandwiches. The Super Fresh deli was running a sale on Land O'Lakes American cheese. (As Land O'Lakes purchased the local manufacturer of "New Yorker" deli cheese a few years back, and both brands were on display, I had to ask which one was the one on sale.)

The wrappers on both the Land O'Lakes American and the Land O'Lakes New Yorker blocks read "Pasteurized Process (American, on the New Yorker label) Cheese Product."

Yet this cheese had a perfectly acceptable consistency, mouthfeel and slightly cheddary, slightly milky flavor. Not at all what I usually associate with process cheeses bearing that label.

Maybe Land O'Lakes is allowing itself some room to maneuver on the fat content by labeling their cheese in this fashion?

BTW and FWIW: For those who care about such things, Land O'Lakes, like Ocean Spray, Sunkist and Welch's, is a co-op.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites
Of course, in Australia cheddar is always white.  I LOVE telling Aussies about orange cheese, which they think only comes on McDonald's burgers.  My first trip to the supermarket here: staring dumbly at banks of white bricks labelled "Tasty", wondering where the normal cheese was!  I thought Tasty might be code for 'processed'; it turns out it just means medium-aged.

IOW "sharp"?

I encountered the word "tasty" used this way in a microwave cookbook I got about 10 years ago, published by a Canadian publisher. I've never seen it used this way in U.S. English.

We like Bega and Mainland the best in the cheddar department.  Aged for me please.  The flavour is excellent - it goes nicely on hard rye, or in a toasted sandwich.  Nimbin 'Elbo-style' is quite nice too, especially on a sandwich with some double-smoked ham.  We stay right away from those curious rubbery white hockey pucks sold as brie or camembert though.  And I'm not fond of Devondale, which is too soft and rubbery.

All of these are Australian varieties, I assume?

I hate processed cheese (we get it here too, although outside of McDonald's it's always white).  I don't care how well it melts, it still tastes like an industrial chemical accident to me.  Don't even ask about cheese whiz or Kraft Dinner - I may never be allowed back into Canada if my true feelings are known!

Never mind that--with this confession, you have just shut yourself out of ever being able to experience the original Philadelphia cheesesteak. You will have to settle for one of the Johnny-come-latelies, namely, the version with provolone.

And as for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, well...

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

I love Tillamook sharp cheddar ..well I love all their cheddar cheeses ... actually I love all their cheese ...and ice cream and butter....and from my standpoint ..they are cheap enough to buy all the time and please most everyone

while I have rarely met a cheese I did not love and I consider it my mission to taste all the cheese I can before I die!....I can not deal with anything that is labeled "cheese food product" they do not come off the inside of your mouth!!!!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...