All About Cheese
Cheese is the perfect food. It’s great as an on-the-go snack and as picnic fare paired with fruit, wine and crusty bread. As natural cheese, pasteurized process cheese and even reduced-fat cheese, it’s an essential ingredient called for time and again in our recipes.
Discover characteristics of types of cheese, success when melting or adding it to sauces, along with tips for cooking with reduced-fat cheese. Plus, discover how to host an easy cheese tasting party!
Types of Cheese
Cheeses fall into four categories, depending on the way it’s processed.
- Natural cheeses are made from the cream or milk of cows, sheep or goats. The milk is treated to make it curdle; then the curds (solids) are separated from the whey (liquid). The curds may or may not be aged (ripened).
- Unripened (fresh) cheeses include Brie, cottage cheese, cream cheese and ricotta.
- Ripened (aged) cheeses include Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan. Aged cheese is further processed by being colored, shaped or coated in wax.
SUCCESS TIP: When cooking with natural cheeses shred or grate them first to speed melting and blending. Cook on low heat and add cheese last, stirring only until just melted. If adding shredded cheese as a topping to a baked dish, add during the final 10 to 15 minutes of baking to avoid overbrowning.
Pasteurized Process Cheese
- Pasteurized process cheese is a blend of one or more varieties of natural cheese that are ground and heated.
- Because the pasteurization process stops ripening, cheese flavor doesn't change and the cheeses keep well.
- American cheese is the best-known of these cheeses.
- Cheese food is one or more varieties of natural cheese made without heat (cold-pack method) or with heat (pasteurized process cheese method).
- Cheese food has a higher percentage of moisture because dairy products such as cream, milk, skim milk or whey are added.
- Cheese food is usually sold in tubs or jars and is often flavored.
Pasteurized Cheese Spread
- Pasteurized cheese spread-- spreadable at room temperature—is higher in moisture and lower in fat than cheese food and includes cheese in aerosol cans.
Cooking with Reduced-Fat Cheese
- The virtue of reduced-fat cheese lies in its lower fat and calorie content.
- Many cheeses are naturally lower in fat, such as mozzarella, string, farmer's cheese, Neufchâtel, ricotta and uncreamed cottage cheese, because they’re made from skim or part-skim milk.
- Other cooking cheeses widely available in reduced-fat form include Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Colby, Muenster and American.
- Lower fat content means milder flavor, texture and different cooking characteristics because these versions contain less milk fat.
- Try these tips when cooking with reduced fat cheese:
- Avoid melting reduced-fat cheeses under broilers or in toaster ovens. They tend to toughen under direct heat.
- Melt reduced-fat cheeses on low heat, stirring slowly and in one direction. Increase cooking time by about 25 percent to make sure the cheese melts properly.
- Add flour or cornstarch to shredded reduced-fat cheeses to help them blend more smoothly into sauces. Gold Medal® all-purpose flour or Gold Medal® Wondra® quick-mixing flour are great for this purpose.
- Another way to reduce fat in recipes with cheese is to cook with sharper-flavored cheese. You can use less when you choose sharp or aged Cheddar, Parmesan, Asiago, Gorgonzola and provolone in recipes, keeping the fat content in check.
Make It a Cheese Tasting Party