Kraft Cheddar Cheese 190g
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Sodium Citrate Plays An Important Role In Making Velveeta
Cheese food like Velveeta wouldn’t be what it is today without sodium citrate, something that was discovered to transform cheeses decades ago. According to Discover, Swiss scientists and food tinkerers Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler first shredded and melted Emmentaler, a yellow, medium-hard cheese named after the Swiss town where it was produced, and added it to a runny soup.
When the two ingredients made contact, the fat swam to the surface of the liquid and formed an unattractive and unpalatable layer of oil at the surface. But, when Gerber and Stettler added sodium citrate to the mix, the fat stayed put. They could then melt and cool the resulting cheese product into a form they could slice.
So, what exactly did sodium citrate have to do with all of this? Basically, the sodium citrate replaces calcium ions with sodium ions, making the casein proteins within the cheese bind with each other with less gusto. Those weakened bonds then result in the spongy, cheese-like block known as Velveeta. Sodium citrate also happens to give this spongy chunk of cheese food its impressive shelf life.
It’s Probably Not Even American
Sure, there are a lot of things that aren’t American that aren’t dying. Peruvian food. Kangaroos. Shakira.
But calling American cheese “American” is a goshdarn lie or at the very least, not quite the whole truthdepending on who you ask.
The story of not-so-American cheese begins not on U.S. soil, but in the mountains of Switzerland. It was 1911, and Swiss cheesemen Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler were determined to create a cheese with a long lifespan that could resist melting when shipped to tropical climates. The two cheeseheads discovered adding in sodium citrate would allow cheese to melt at low temperatures without losing fat.
About five years later, an American cheese distributor named James L. Kraft nabbed an American patent for this process for manufacturing cheese. Kraft announced he’d discovered a way to keep cheddar cheese “indefinitely without spoiling, under conditions which would ordinarily cause it to spoil.” Though cheese snobs initially dismissed the strange product as “embalmed cheese,” it’s long shelf-life and shippability made Kraft cheese an instant, massive success.
Since millennials have been known for embracing local foods, is it any surprise they’re ditching a food hat isn’t even truly American?
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History Of American Cheese
The story of American cheese begins in Switzerland, of course.
Processed cheese product was invented in the landlocked Alpine country in 1911 by Swiss scientist Walter Gerber. Shortly after, a very smart man named James L. Kraft grabbed the American patent for the processing method, and it was his company that created the first commercially available sliced American cheese singles, which hit the market in the 1950s.
At the time, Kraft was criticized for using marketing tricks to sell second-rate cheese as a first-rate product and his product was called embalmed cheese. But his tricks worked. Americans gladly sacrificed the taste and quality of their cheese in favor of convenience, a growing trend that would play out over and over in the country as quantity and ease became more important that anything else in many peoples diets.
Cheaper than real cheese and with a much longer shelf-life, processed cheese product became popular and soon was to be found on dinner tables all over the country, so much so that it became known as American cheese.
Today, most Americans have eaten our fair share of those bright orange slices in convenient plastic packages – not to mention Cheez Whiz, Easy Cheese and Velveeta.
But if American cheese isnt cheese then what is it?
What’s Really In Velveeta Now
Kraft has described Velveeta as able to melt into a texture that’s “smooth and creamy for ultimate appeal,” in glowing marketing terms . It melts so well and better than regular cheese because, well, it isn’t real cheese. It certainly looks like cheese and can function as cheese in some respects, but still isn’t actually the real thing.
As it approaches its 100th birthday, Velveeta is now made with whey protein concentrate and milk protein. The official list of ingredients as reported by Organic Authority include milk, water, whey, milk protein concentrate, milkfat, whey protein concentrate, and sodium phosphate. Velveeta also contains 2 percent or less of salt, calcium phosphate, lactic acid, sorbic acid, sodium citrate, sodium alginate, enzymes, apocarotenal, annatto, cheese culture.
The ingredient list for many kinds of cheese, by contrast, are simply milk, rennet, and salt. See the difference? Organic Authority says that whey isn’t added to proper cheeses, because whey should already be produced during the traditional cheesemaking process. You may also have noticed that real cheese is often kept in the refrigerated section of the store and not on the shelf. While the USDA notes that not all cheeses have to be refrigerated, this is still a significant detail. But in the end, Velveeta is still considered quite delicious by its legion of fans regardless of the ingredients list.
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Velveeta Was Once Promoted As Healthy
Now that you know what all goes into the making of what you’ve either judged to be disgusting or yummy Velveeta, would it surprise you to know that it was once thought to be health food? Because protein-heavy whey is used to make Velveeta, Kraft marketed the thick yellowish-orange block of meltable goo in 1958 as something that would benefit the entire health-conscious family .
A black and white TV ad from that era described Velveeta as perfect for weight-watching adults, expectant mothers, and was even promoted as “extra good for youngsters”, thanks to ingredients like protein, calcium, and phosphorous in the product. Back in 1931, Mental Floss reports, even the American Medical Association touted Velveeta as having “all the nutritional qualities to promote firm flesh.”
Nowadays, however, one hopes that we’ve come a bit farther when it comes to judging healthy foods. And if you feel like you’ve knocked yourself back a dietary step by eating a Velveeta-based dish or splurging on a cheesy Velveeta dip, you could always take a jog. While you’re doing so, you can pace yourself to the music performed by an ’80s cover band from Pennsylvania called what else? Velveeta. Or consider the day you eat something made with Velveeta as a cheat day.
Choosing The Best Cheese
As you can see, Kraft American cheese is not the healthiest option for you. Cheese, however, can be difficult for people to give up. Luckily, you do not have to. You just need to know what to look for and what to avoid.
What To Avoid:
- Avoid packaged, shredded cheeses. While the pre-shredded cheese you can find at the store may be convenient, it has anti-caking agents added in to keep all those little shreds from sticking together and forming one big clump.
- Avoided powdered cheeses. Items like easy mac that contain a package of powdered cheese in it, although quick and easy to make, is not healthy.
- Avoid cheese from a spray can. Need I say more about this one? That stuff cannot even qualify as cheese!
- Avoid low fat or non-fat cheeses. You may think you are making the healthier choose when opting for a low fat or non-fat cheese, but those are actually heavily processed.
What To Look For:
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The Three Major Types Of American Cheese
Because there are many, well, processes by which one can make processed cheese, there are a few different broad definitions.that cheese marketed as an American cheese can fall under.
In terms of your standard deli-sliced American, that’s a “pasteurized process cheese.” That means it’s derived from melting at least one “real” cheese . Usually, that means at least one additive in order to augment the taste, texture, or presentation. Those can include water, salter, spices, coloring, or cream. Emulsifying agents , which aid in making sure everything’s mixed together properly. There’s a lot of room for variation within “pasteurized process cheese,” but the stipulation is that moisture content must be below 43 percent, and fat content of at least 47 percent.
In terms of Kraft Singles, those are a “pasteurized process cheese food.” There’s a little more leeway in terms of allowable ingredients, but the rule is that there must be at least 23 percent fat content, and no more than 44 percent moisture. Importantly, at least 51 percent of “pasteurized process cheese food” must be, well, actual cheese.
Finally, there’s “pasteurized process cheese spread,” which are the Velveetas and Cheez Whizzes of the world basically the stuff you may already think of as processed cheese. That is also at least 51 percent cheese, 20 percent milkfat, and moisture content between 44 and 60. Interestingly, it also must be spreadable at room temperature.
American Cheese Is What You Make Of It
So now that you know about the history of American cheese, its evolution, and the ways in which it is and isn’t cheese, you can consider yourself a true connoisseur. At the very least, pretentiously sharing your knowledge of American cheese as if it’s a rare fromage from a remote region of France will be a good way to get a rise out of the cheese snob in your friend group the next time you share a charcuterie board.
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Some People Prefer To Make Their Own Velveeta
Lots of people love Velveeta and its flexibility, but they may also not like the ingredients used in its manufacturing process. So, they opt to create their own copycat version but with fewer ingredients. One of the most popular uses of Velveeta or Velveeta copycats is in a crockpot mixed with Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilies. According to Mental Floss, the dip was especially popular with President Lyndon Johnson and his life, the admittedly weird First Lady Ladybird, but didn’t get truly popular until a canny marketing move in 2002 put Ro-Tel and Velveeta side-by-side in grocery stores.
If you’re going to make your own Velveeta analog at home, you’ll need to reach for a potentially surprising ingredient. NourishingJoy.com explains that gelatin is the key to a successful homemade Velveeta recipe. “Gelatin provides the velvety texture, the ability to melt and rechill, and it increases the protein content,” NourishingJoy.com reports. Without this ingredient, it’s possible that your homemade Velveeta just won’t compare to the store-bought brand name stuff.
No, this recipe isn’t especially heart-healthy, as it requires a fair amount of saturated fats in the form of cheeses, milk, and heavy cream. Still, for an occasional treat or a game-day snack, it’s a good replacement for the oddly bright yellow-orange Velveeta you may have picked up otherwise.
Nutritionally American Cheese Is Super Lame
Of course, not all cheeses are evil preservatives packed into a rubbery yellow square.
There are plenty of tasty, relatively healthy cheeses that serve as a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D when eaten in moderation. For example, an ounce of feta cheese packs in a mere 74 calories along with five grams of protein and 14 percent of your daily calcium. An ounce of goat cheese, for another, delivers five grams of protein and is associated with benefits like improved bone formation.
On the other hand, American cheese tends to stack up poorly when it comes to nutrition. Depending on the brand you’re getting, American cheese may come in at around around 104 calories with four grams of protein per slice.
It’s no wonder Americans are looking at healthier cheeses when assembling their sandwiches.
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Before You Unwrap That Kraft Single Heres What You Should Know
We all know American cheese is the best cheese for grilled cheese.
If youre like most people, you probably have a package of Kraft Singles in your fridge right now. Some people call it a guilty pleasure, but for many people its indispensable its the perfect cheese for a cheeseburger or grilled cheese, and has countless uses around the kitchen. But even if no trip to the supermarket is complete without buying a 20-pack, we bet there are some things you didnt know about this popular pasteurized prepared cheese product.
Its Been Around Since 1949Even though it might look high-tech, its actually been on the market for nearly 70 years!
Its Not CheeseBecause of the way that its made, Kraft Singles cant legally be called simply cheese on the package. Its actually pasteurized process cheese food, meaning that the final product has a minimum actual cheese content of 51 percent, fat content of no less than 23 percent, and moisture content of no more than 44 percent.
It Starts With Real Cheese98 percent of Kraft Singles is in fact real cheese, plus things like whey protein concentrate and sodium citrate. The rest of the ingredients are emulsifiers and preservatives that help it melt nicely and give it a long shelf-life.
It Doesnt Start as a Solid BlockThe slices start off as a long, single sheet, which is then sliced into individual squares and wrapped.
Their Ingredient List Reads Like A Science Experiment
Gif courtesy of classicajays.tumblr.com
Cheese shouldnt need an ingredient list, because it should just be made of cheese. From milk. The end. Meanwhile, Kraft Singles has 17 yeah, 17 ingredients.
The Kraft singles ingredient list consists of cheddar cheese, whey, water, protein concentrate, milk, sodium citrate, calcium phosphate, milkfat, gelatin, salt, sodium phosphate, lactic acid , annatto and paprika extract , enzymes, Vitamin A palmitate, cheese culture, and Vitamin D3. Phew.
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How Exactly Is Velveeta Made
A variety of orange-hued cheeses were originally used to concoct a rectangular slab of Velveeta, though the process has since changed somewhat. Using special machinery, as Insiderreports, the chunks of leftover cheeses were ground up into small pieces, then an emulsifier designed to stabilize emulsions was added into the mixture. An emulsion is a dispersion or a mixture of two liquids that normally wouldn’t play well together, like oil and water. “These liquids can be mixed together by force, like with a strong whisk or homogenizer,” Food Crumbles reports.
The most common example of an emulsion is that of water and oils, like vinegar and olive oil. They can be mixed by hand, but once the action stops, the two antagonists will split again. While there are quite a few emulsifiers used in the food production process, common ones include egg yolks, egg proteins, mono- and diglycerides, esters with fatty acids, and polysorbates.
Now, that’s how Velveeta used to be made, with emulsifiers and unused cheese pieces, but those aren’t the ingredients used anymore. Because the manufacturing process for Velveeta has changed over time, many other factors had to change with it as well. This includes some legal updates, such as how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies cheese products like Velveeta, which are now “pasteurized recipe cheese product” .
American Cheese Ingredients Explained
Speaking of sodium citrate, buy yourself a little pouch of the stuff and you, too, can make perfectly creamy, gooey, melty cheese slices and macaroni and cheese at home, using whatever cheese you’d like!
As G.I. Joe teaches us, knowing is half the battle, but the question still remains as to whether these additives are truly safe. Well, the government says so, and American cheese has been around an awfully long time. That said, I’m still a skeptic, and that extends to the things I put in my body. I enjoy American cheese on an occasional basisabout as often as I eat a hamburger. I figure that whatever small, unknown danger those chemicals might present is dwarfed by the very well-known dangers of eating too much saturated fat, dairy, and meat. Some folks also like to avoid modern process cheeses made with MPC, since it’s often imported from countries with less rigid safety standards or oversight. This is a valid concern!
As I said at the beginning, my goal has been only to clear up misconceptions around American cheese and its production. If you thought it was gross to begin with, I doubt I did a good job of convincing you that it’s not. For me, it’s all about context. There are times when I crave a fancy, true cheese, and there are times when only an oozing slice of American will do. One does not replace the other, and they need not be compared with each other for us to enjoy them both.
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What Is American Cheese
Let’s get one thing straight. When I say American cheese, I am referring specifically to process American cheese. The kind that comes either in individual slices from the refrigerated dairy case or sliced off of a rectangular block at the deli counter. There are many incredible cheeses produced in Americasome of the finest in the world, like Humboldt Fog, Moses Sleeper, and Bent River. They may be great cheeses that are American, but they are not “American cheese.”
Let’s get another thing straight. All cheese is processed. All of it. It is a man-made product that does not exist in nature. Even the simplest cheese, like halloumi, is made by treating milk with rennet , draining the resulting curds, and pressing them together. More complex cheeses go through further steps of processing. Mozzarella and queso Oaxaca are kneaded and stretched, for instance. Gruyère and Comté are washed with a bacteria-infested brine called morge.
Most cheeses are inoculated with bacteria and allowed to ferment and age, during which time they develop flavor and rinds and lose moisture.
Heating, curdling, pressing, inoculating, aging…those are all processes.
*Oddly, one of the USDA stipulations for process American cheese destined for use in government programs is that none of the ingredients shall have previously been property of the government, meaning that the phrase “government cheese” does not actually apply to government cheese…until it becomes government cheese.