Jul 31, 2012

Cheeses of the World - Part Two
Processed Cheese

You know, it's the little things that make a marriage work, and today's little thing is caving in to my husband's request that today's cheese post be about "Wendy's cheddar cheese goo that they put on a Baconator®. The bestest cheese ever." Oh, my dear husband. You are about to be sadly disappointed.

There is no magical cheese goo on the Baconator®. It's just a plain old processed cheese slice.

From the official Wendy's site I have the full ingredients list:

Hamburger Patties - Ground Beef. Seasoned with salt.
Processed Cheese Slice - Cheese (milk, modified milk ingredients, bacterial culture, salt, rennet and/or microbial enzyme, calcium chloride, lipase, colour), modified milk ingredients, water, glucose, sodium citrate and/or sodium phosphate, salt, acetic acid, sorbic acid, soya lecithin, carboxymethylcellulose, colour. May contain citric acid.
Applewood Smoked Bacon (6 strips)
Premium butter toasted bun.
Optional ingredients include: mustard, crinkle cut pickles, red onion, tomatoes, and lettuce.

So, now that I've shattered my husband's illusions, let's take a look at processed cheese.

Sometimes known as American cheese, processed cheese is typically made from a blend of cheeses, most often Colby and Cheddar. These natural cheeses are shredded, heated, and reprocessed with extra salts, food colorings, emulsifiers, and whey, and then packed as slices, blocks, or in jars. It's cheaper and has a longer shelf life than natural cheese. Because of the processing and additives, many countries refuse to allow it to be labeled as cheese, instead calling it cheese food, cheese spread, or cheese product.

Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler were the first to process cheese in Switzerland in 1911. The cheese was shredded and heated with sodium citrate to produce a consistent product which firmed up upon cooling. The initial reason for this was to increase the shelf-life of cheese that was shipped to warmer climates.

Around the same time, James Lewis Kraft was experimenting with the heating and blending of different cheeses and was issued a patent in 1916 for cheese that was processed and then packed in glass jars or cans. In 1921 he was issued another patent for a loaf of processed cheese.

In 1935 Norman Kraft was issued a patent for the equipment used in new processes. Over the next few years additional improvements to the equipment and processing methods were issued. In 1944 Norman was granted a patent describing the production of processed cheese slices, a breakthrough in convenience.


Grilled cheese sandwiches: When I was a kid, I remember my mother putting home made strawberry jam in her grilled cheese sandwiches. I don't remember ever trying it; if I have anything in my grilled cheese, it's bacon. :-)

Sauces: Also when I was a kid, my mother would melt Cheez Whiz to pour over broccoli or asparagus on toast. Kids will eat anything with cheese on it. :-) My husband introduced me to cheesy peas, where you add a couple of cheese slices to cooked, drained peas and stir until melted.

Enhancing a dish: You can add processed cheese to macaroni and cheese to add a little omph, or to any casserole for that matter. Add it to mashed potatoes for extra flavour or as a topping for shepherd's pie. Throw a slice on top of an omelets.

Snacking: Spreadable processed cheese is great on crackers or as a filling for celery. I have also been known to throw a couple of slices of processed cheese over a plate of nachos and salsa and then microwave it until the cheese melts.

The possibilities are endless!

You can, in fact, make your own processed cheese and I've found a couple of links that give you step by step instructions:

From Living Strong we have: How to Make Processed Cheese

From America's Test Kitchen Feed we have How to Make American Cheese


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