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Cheese 101

Cheese 101

 

            Filling, flavorful, fantastic variety- cheese has a long history of being a food enjoyed by mankind. The origin of cheese is assumed to have happened via the practice of transporting milk in bladders made of ruminants' stomachs – which have a natural supply of rennet, which in turn is needed to make cheese.  Cheese-making had become a sophisticated enterprise by the time ancient Rome came into being,[2]when valued foreign cheeses were transported to Rome to satisfy the tastes of the social elite.       Cheese is a great snack (in moderation)! One ounce of Parmesan has more protein than red meat, 33% of the recommended daily amount for calcium, and vitamins such as B12 and riboflavin, Cheese lovers interested in reducing their fat and calories can still enjoy a variety of lower-fat cheeses. Cheese varies in fat content depending on the amount of milkfat used to make the cheese. Look for the words light, reduced fat, or part-skimmed, which indicates these cheeses are lower in fat than their counterparts but are not imitation cheeses.

            There are many varieties of cheese, from Cheddar to Swiss, each with its own standard of identity specified by the Food and Drug Administration. Cheese varieties are categorized as natural cheese, pasteurized process cheese, cheese food, and cheese spread.

            Natural cheese is made from a starter bacteria, rennet, and milk and allowed to solidify. It may or may not be aged. Each natural cheese variety is processed, resulting in distinctive flavor and qualities.

            Pasteurized process cheese is prepared by grinding, blending, and heating one or more natural cheeses together to allow for uniformity and keeping quality. American cheese is an example of a pasteurized process cheese. Pasteurized process cheese products usually have good melting properties.

            Cheese food is made by blending one or more cheeses without the use of heat plus the addition of dairy products such as cream, milk, skim milk, or whey. Cheese food has a higher percentage of moisture than natural or pasteurized process cheese.

            Cheese spread is similar to pasteurized process cheese food except that an edible stabilizer and moisture are added. This allows for smooth spreading at room temperature. .

            To best preserve your cheese, store it in a refrigerator between 34-40 degrees Fahrenheit in the vegetable drawer where the air is more humid. Cheese loses flavor and moisture when it's exposed to air, so make sure to wrap hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, in tightly drawn plastic wrap. Soft or fresh cheeses, such as Mascarpone, are best stored in clean, airtight containers. Semi-hard cheeses, including Cheddar and Gouda, can be wrapped in plastic wrap as well as a lighter wrapping paper, such as parchment. Cheese is labeled with a “best if used by” date. This date is not an indication of safety but tells you how long the product should retain its flavor and quality.

            You want to start by selecting the best quality cheese, no matter what variety you're buying. Here are some tips:

  • Cheese should have a fresh, clean appearance with no cracks or surface mold. Be sure the packaging is sealed properly, without any openings or tears that expose the cheese.
  •  Check the "use by" or "sell by" dates on packaged cheese. If buying fresh cut cheese, ask the clerk how best to wrap the cheese for storage as well as how long the cheese can be kept.

            Cheese can be frozen, but is not recommend as freezing cheese will change its texture. Semi-soft and hard cheeses will be more crumbly while softer cheeses will separate slightly. The nutritional value will remain stable.  A cheese that has been frozen is best used as an ingredient. The best candidates for freezing are firm cheeses, such as Swiss, and hard cheeses, such as Parmesan. When freezing cheese, wrap pieces tightly in weights of 1 pound or less. Label and date your cheese before storing it at temperatures of about 0°F.  It's best to thaw cheese in the refrigerator and use your cheese within a couple of days.

            One more fun cheese fact, Wisconsin is the only state in the United States that has a Master Cheese Maker Program. This is an advanced education program for experienced cheese makers. The three year program requires a minimum of 10 years as a licensed cheese maker prior to applying to the program.  Allrecipes.com recently highlighted cheese in the following dish which resembles lasagna but goes together so much faster!

 

Double Cheese Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) package uncooked egg noodles
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 12 ounces cottage cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook egg noodles according to package directions.

Brown the ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, add the tomato sauce, stir well, and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and cottage cheese, stirring together until well blended. Then stir in the egg noodles and sour cream until all ingredients are well mixed. Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

 

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