Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What Movies Feature Cheese?

“'More cheese please!” I once asked my mother as a young girl, delighting in the pleasure of the simple rhyme and the promise of my favorite food item that was sure to not be denied. Every time I see a child want some it reminds me and I'm constantly aware of this fabulous food and its impact on our daily lives. What may not be a common known fact about it is its predominance in movie quotes, but often non-existence in movie features.

Sure there are many movies that show famous people eating cheeses, showcase cheese in refrigerators, (strangely they're often left on an open plate without any wrappings) and heaps of quotes using the context of cheese or just simply the word. Doesn't everyone remember, “A Royale with cheese?”

What you may not know is there are quite a few videos from various sources about the making of cheese and this detailed process. They can be both interesting and informative, especially if you have any desire to try this for yourself.

There are a couple of full length, feature films out there that incorporate this yummy food. The first is In Queso Fever which is a fun documentary that happens to explore the birth and blooming popularity of dips made from cheese in Arkansas. It showcases the wide variety of types and how well they melt, plus which ways you can make dips from them. It gives you history on how this became so popular and the unusual combinations of both what you use to eat the dip with and what you use to make the dip.

A fun romantic movie with the food in the title is, I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With. This is a film made in 2006 about a man who is having problems dealing with both women and work and keeps using food in order to deal with this issue. It stars Jeff Garlin and Sarah Silverman. It's full of rye humor, romance, sparks and you guessed it, grand glimpses of Gouda, Cheddar and all sorts of other kinds.

A fun little game to try the next time you have a dinner party is have everybody bring a different variety and cut, slice or cube them up. Remember they will be best tasted at room temperature. Taste away and see who can deliver the most quotes, or movie titles revolving around cheese. Have a special, harder to find artisan variety for the winner of this game.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cheese Dip Recipe 4: Mexican Cheese Dip

This dip makes about eight servings.


1 tablespoon butter

½ cup milk or as needed

1 pound Colby jack cheese shredded finely

2 cans green chilies chopped finely (about 4 ounces each)

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

Cayenne pepper to taste

Tortilla chips


Place a medium saucepan over low heat and add cheese, milk, and butter. Stir frequently and cook until cheese is thoroughly melted. Stir in cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and green chilies. If a slightly spicier taste is desired then substitute jalapeños for the chilies and add another can. Sprinkle cayenne to taste. Add milk if the dip has gotten too thick. Heat through while stirring and serve immediately. This can be held in a Crockpot and keep warm for easy serving convenience.

Alternative Cheeses:

Jalapeño Cheddar Cheese, Garlic Cheddar Cheese Curds, Cheddar Cheese, Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, or a combination

Friday, August 26, 2011

What is the Difference Between Animal Rennet and Vegetable Rennet?

Don't you just love cheese? It is impressive amazing that it melts across a delicious burger or adds flavor to that least favorable food group, the vegetable. Maybe you love the way it can change boring rice, broccoli or Tuna into a scrumptious dinner casserole in just one a single dish for dinner. But have you ever put your mind to how we get this fantastic food? There is a unique aging and fermentation process used to a variety of milk and during this creation an enzyme called rennet is used.

Rennet is put into already acidified milk to force the proteins to form curds. During this process liquid runs off and is given the name whey. The amount of rennet used varies with the type of cheese the maker is trying to create. Traditionally, animal rennet comes from baby goats, cows, or sheep, before they've eaten anything but their mother's milk. It is an enzyme that comes from their stomachs. Some people have a moral issue with animal rennet because it is taken from young animals that are often slaughtered for mutton or veal. It did seem to come about in a time when milk was often stored in bags made from these animals' stomachs. Most European varieties are still made from animal rennet.

Vegetable rennet is a whole other matter. Early Greeks were known to use extractions of fig juice to coagulate milk. Other possible sources would be mallow, thistle, Ground Ivy, nettles, and soybean. Cheeses made with this form of rennet are often Kosher and fine for vegetarians.

Most people tend to think of microbial rennets as the same as vegetable. Their origin comes from a certain kind of mold, called Mucur Miehei. Something very interesting about microbial rennet is that even though its origin is with mold the end result doesn't contain any mold.

All of the above rennets can work very well in the making of cheese. Which rennet you decide to use is all variable upon the type of cheese you wish to create and the aging process involved. Generally speaking you want to use animal rennet for any of the cheeses that need longer to age. Most producers choose calf rennet for this. The microbial and vegetable rennets tend to create bitter flavors in the end product if aged longer than six months or so.

Hopefully the process we use to make this yummy food will only move you to try new kinds and enjoy in even more ways.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cheese Dip Recipe 3: Hot Jalapeño Cheese Dip

This recipe makes about 8 servings or 2 cups.


½ cup ( or about 4 ounces) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup (or about 8 ounces) Muenster cheese finely shredded

1 cans (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

1 cup mayonnaise

1 loaf of sourdough bread, round

1 can (about 4 ounces) diced jalapeño peppers finely diced.


Get the oven preheated to 375 degrees. Combine the jalapeño peppers, Muenster cheese, extra sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, and green chilies into a bowl. Cut the top off of the sourdough bread, and hollow out the center to make a bread bowl. Reserve the bread trimmings and set aside to dip into. Place in the oven and bake for about thirty minutes or until melted and warmed thoroughly. Serve with bread for dipping while still warm. If extra bread is needed for dipping try getting some small sourdough bread rolls and using them also.

Alternative Cheeses:

Jalapeño Cheddar, sharp cheddar, Colby Jack, Gouda

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Syneresis As It Pertains To Cheese?

There are some great items in the dairy group on the food pyramid. Yogurt is delicious, so is sour cream, but many people favor cheese. There is something is to be said for a food that millions of children refuse to have a meal with out. As a person who likes to make everything from scratch I've often wondered what goes into the process of curds and whey. What I've found is a lengthy, complicated process that consistently begs this food to be compared to wine. Both items seemed to dawn with earliest mankind and offer both the cheap, mundane types and those for connoisseurs.

Cheese was made as a way to make the nutrients in milk last longer and travel easier. It came about in a process of fermenting the milk in animal stomachs. The stomach contains an enzyme called rennet which helps with this process by making the proteins form together as curds and the liquid to siphon off as whey. What most people don't know about curds is that they aren't really a solid, but considered a solid gel. Though storing milk in bags made of animal stomachs is an outdated means, rennet is still needed in the multiple steps of cheese making.

Syneresis occurs during the main three steps used in making this food. These are: The growth of bacteria from the rennet causes the initial process of curds and whey. The separation of the liquid from the curds is called syneresis. The next step is using mechanical tools to stir the curd grains. The third step is simultaneous with the second, and it's a heat treatment to the curds.

Once these three major steps have been applied to milk, we have our cheese curds. The curds are then put into molds that can be made from wood, plastic or metal, and come in any number of shapes. Weight is used to press them into shape. The characteristics of the cheese are formed during the treatment and pressing stages, but the taste comes from its time ripening.

However delicate the flavor or variety is you can be sure there is a lengthy process involved with creating the product you enjoy with your crackers or veggies. The next time you're in the store considering which type may be best to bring home for your next dinner party, consider the years of tradition and the time involved in making even the most simple of cheeses.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cheese Dip Recipe 2: Beefy Cheese Dip

This dip makes about 9 cups.


1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped

1 pound sausage mild or spicy

1 pound lean ground beef

1 16 ounce jar of salsa

2 pounds shredded cheddar cheese

bag of tortilla chips


In a large skillet brown the sausage and burger over a medium heat until done. Drain well. In another large skillet mix the salsa, and green onions, and the cheese and cook over slow heat until well melted. If cheese isn't melting well, a tablespoon of melted butter in a quarter cup of milk can be added to the mixture to smooth it out. Add heat to the cheese mixture and simmer uncovered until ready to serve. Place in a Crockpot to keep warm while being served or waiting to be served. Serve with tortilla chips.

Alternative Cheeses:

Jalapeño Cheddar, Colby Jack, Extra Sharp Cheddar, Italian Cheddar Cheese Curds

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What Enzymes Are Used As Catalysts in Making Cheese?

Enzymes are what make milk curdle or coagulate. So milk requires enzymes if it is to become some form of cheese whether it is made from the milk of sheep, goats, cows or buffalo. If it is natural enzymes then the rennet comes from one of a calf stomachs, they have four. Calves have this enzyme because they require it in order to be able to digest their mother’s milk.
When using the natural or animal rennet it is best from calves who have not yet been weaned. If they are older calves there will be no Chymosin but they will have more pepsin. This can’t be used in all types of cheeses. Of course just as there is calf rennet there is also kid goat and lamb rennet.

There are alternatives to natural rennet. One technical name for rennet is Chymosin. But rennet actually contains two enzymes one is Chymosin the other is Pepsin. The alternatives to the animal rennet are enzymes created from microbes or vegetable enzymes for the vegetarian cheese consumer. Microbial rennet is laboratory grown for vegetarians from mold, fungus or yeast.

Then there is the genetically modified rennet or GMO. A GMO is made in a laboratory from a derivative of animal rennet which means a chemical substance from a parent substance which may be animal. There are some European countries that ban GMO rennet for sale in their country but allow its use for cheeses shipped to countries that allow it in cheeses.

Many European countries continue to use natural enzymes in making their traditional cheeses. These are more expensive than man or laboratory created enzymes. Microbial rennet is from Mucor Miehei or also known as a microbial coagulant which is accepted and is actually an extract of a type of mold that is nontoxic and nonpathogenic to humans. So it is safe to consume products using this form of enzyme.

Besides animal rennet there are other sources of rennet. It can be from certain plants and called vegetable rennet but it is rare to find it in North America. Vegetable rennet comes from very specific plants which have certain enzymes that can curdle milk.

Then there is FPC or Fermentation Produced Chymosin rennet introduced in 1990. It is very inexpensive to produce and is used almost extensively in mass cheese production in the US. This particular rennet comes under a cloud as it may be considered a generically altered product.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Are the Best cheeses for the Lactose Intolerant?

If you are lactose intolerant you are that person who gets bloating, the runs and or cramps when they consume lactose and then your body can’t break it down. Lactose is the natural sugar present in milk and lactose when consumed is broken down by the lactose enzyme. If you are one of the millions of people who can’t tolerate and digest lactose it goes right to your large intestine and then turns into something that bacteria just loves. This is not an allergy to milk which is something different.

Different types of cheeses have different levels of lactose. There are some that have only trace levels of lactose and there are others that have quite a lot of lactose in them. The cheeses that have a small or trace amount of lactose are the ones that someone who is lactose intolerant may be able to eat. These are the ones such as parmesan, cheddar or Swiss which are naturally aged generally have less than 0.5 grams of lactose. Then during the processing most of the lactose is drained off with the remaining changing to lactic acid during the aging process. So this is the type of cheeses someone who is lactose intolerant may be able to consume without some bad reactions.

Generally if a cheese label says the sugar content is zero then there will be approximately one half gram per ounce of lactose in it. There are some brands of processed cheese that are actually lactose free too. The ones which have less than five grams of lactose are generally the ones that are not aged such as the fresh and not ripened ones like mozzarella or ricotta which contain more lactose than the aged cheeses.

The alternate is choosing ones that are created from soy beans or almonds. Soy cheeses will taste slightly nutty and also may be slightly sweet like a soy mozzarella. So someone who is lactose intolerant may in fact be able to consume specific ones. If in doubt as to how much lactose is in the product you must read the entire label. If there are any questions then you can always contact the maker of the product either by telephone or they may have an email address on the packaging. Because so many millions of people have a lactose intolerance it is a condition that is widely talked about and acknowledged so there are choices available.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cheese Dip Recipe 1: Pizza Dip

This recipe makes enough to serve about 8-10.


1 package or about 2 ounces of sliced pepperoni

1 eight ounce package of cream cheese softened to room temperature.

1 14 ounce jar of your favorite pizza sauce

1 ½ cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 can of olives, sliced

1/3 cup diced onion

Chips, crackers or something for dipping


Use a 9 inch glass pie plate and press the cream cheese into it evenly. Spoon and spread the pizza sauce over the cream cheese, in a thin layer. Then layer on the onions, then cheese, then olives and finally the olives. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand for about five minutes. This is best served warm with chips or crackers of your choice. It can even be served with baby carrot sticks for dipping.

Alternative Cheese:

Provolone, Cheddar, Muenster, Extra Sharp Cheddar, Colby Jack

Monday, August 8, 2011

When and How Should I Slice My Cheese?

When you are going to slice cheeses you need to consider whether they are of the soft fresh variety or are they hard. The fresh soft ones should be colder when they are sliced to make the slicing easier. The harder varieties should be at room temperature when you slice them. Always use a clean knife to slice them or you can even use a piece of dental floss to slice the softer ones. Generally don’t use the same knife to slice the blues, the brie and the cheddars because you will get mixed up flavors. An unclean knife may cause them to mold faster too.

There are a few guidelines to remember when you are slicing or cutting cheeses. If you are cutting them up into bite sized pieces don’t do it until thirty minutes before they will be served and eaten. The smaller the size the faster it will dry out. So if possible let people bite their own bite sized pieces. When you are cutting it make sure the cutting edge is sharp because you don’t want to saw away at the piece you are cutting. You should generally cut off the rind because many people don’t like it and some cheese rinds can have a very strong taste to them. Never precut the slices or cubes days in advance because you will have to store them somewhere and the wrapped larger pieces are easier to keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

When you serve cheeses generally let them come to room temperature which usually takes about one hour. Remember cold equals dull. They need to bloom to let their taste and smells out. After all they are living and breathing products that will mold in time. Generally figure about one ounce of cheese per person when you are cutting them up. For a nice appearance you can cut off a wedge then slice it sideways to give the pieces a triangular shape. If you are slicing them in advance then cover them up so they don’t dry out prematurely.

If you have some leftover and they look like they are sweating or are oily looking they have not gone bad so just scrape off the layer of oils or liquid then rewrap them and store them in the refrigerator. They should be kept in the warmer part of the refrigerator but remember that warm means mold.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cheese Recipe 15: Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Burrito Breakfast

This recipe can make enough to feed 6-8 people.


1 ½ pound mild or hot sausage

1 green pepper, gutted and finely diced

1 red pepper, gutted and finely diced

1 onion, minced well

36 flour tortillas

1 dozen small to medium eggs well beaten

¼ cup milk

32 ounces shredded cheese

1 ½ pound hash browns


In a large skillet, brown the sausage and drain very well. Mix the eggs and milk, whisking very well then salt and pepper to taste. Cook the potatoes, until soft, and then add the peppers and onions, sauté till soft. Then warm tortillas in oven on very low setting, or microwave with a moist paper towel. Combine potatoes and sausage scoop a large spoonful into each tortilla. Add cheese, roll tortilla up. Place with rolled sides down in a casserole dish, into low oven. Heat and serve these with ketchup, hot sauce and or salsa.

Alternative Cheeses:

Jalapeño Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar, Swiss, Muenster

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What are the Best Practices for Storing and Freezing Cheese?

There are many places where you read that you should never freeze cheese. This is a good rule to follow if you are buying those small batch very expensive artesian cheeses which you probably would never buy except for a special occasion or for a very special treat. On the other hand those highly processed big loaves of generic cheeses from the supermarket shelves can be frozen for a while without much damage to the product.

One thing to remember is that cheese is a living breathing product. If you wrap it tightly in a plastic wrap you will encourage moisture growth and that means molding. So when you bring it home you do need to remove the original plastic wrapping on it unless of course it is the big loaf with the waxy covering. The waxy coverings can maintain it for quite a while. They can either store or age in the back of the refrigerator for some months or you can freeze it just like that. But if it is a smaller piece in plastic wrap whether you are going to store or freeze it remove the plastic as soon as you get home.

Freezing it will generally cause it to dry out and become more crumbly so the texture changes. It is good in a melting recipe when you have defrosted it. If you are going to freeze it make sure you put it in a moisture proof and air tight container. It will take about 24 hours to thaw. You may also find that the taste has changed.

Fresh cheeses have high moisture content and are really quite fragile. If they have natural cracks or holes in them they can attract frost crystals and can get freezer damage so you really should not freeze them. They will often weep when they are defrosted.

If you are storing cheeses in the refrigerator you should keep them covered because they will pick up the refrigerator odors. A good thing to wrap them in is cheese paper which is a two ply paper with the outer layer waxed paper that prevents moisture from coming in and the inner layer is a porous plastic that allows the oxygen in so it can circulate. Otherwise wrap them loosely in parchment paper or waxed paper and put them in a plastic baggie. Cheeses should be vibrant and alive with fine texture, aroma and taste.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cheese Recipe 14: 3 Cheese Omelets Breakfast

This recipe serves one person.

3 medium to large eggs well beaten

1 ounce Swiss cheese diced, or shredded

1 ounce Sharp Cheddar Cheese, diced, or shredded

1 ounce Provolone Cheese, shredded or diced.

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste


Use a medium non-stick skillet to melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the eggs that have already been beaten. When the eggs have started to thicken add the cheeses evenly over them. Fold the eggs over half to give shape, letting it cook for a moment more. Flip the entire omelet over. Continue cooking until all the cheese is melted. Eggs should start to turn a golden brown. Flip one more time. Cook till eggs are thoroughly cooked, a golden brown, and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Alternative Cheeses:

Jalapeño Cheddar curds, Provolone, Muenster, Smokey Swiss, Italian Cheddar Cheese Curds, or Garlic Cheddar Cheese Curds, or any combination.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What are the Best Combinations for Cheese and Fruit?

Whenever you talk about combinations of foods or pairing one type of food with another you always have to take into consideration the personal taste of the person who is assembling those foods. You also have to consider just what purpose the food is being prepared for. If you are going to have a cheese and wine tasting you would use different types of cheeses and fruits than if you were serving beer and popcorn and block cheeses for a group of males who will swill down the beer and use the cheese and fruit to keep their stomachs full until they consume the nachos and sandwiches later.

When you are assembling foods for a TV game marathon you would most likely choose simple block cheeses such as jack, pepper jack, cheddar or maybe Swiss, all of which would go with beer. Then you would serve this with fruits that are fairly hardy like apple slices, seedless grapes and maybe almost ripe pears. These fruits won’t discolor or go bad very quickly especially if you dribble some lemon juice over the fruit so it won’t discolor if it is not consumed immediately. You can also serve some dried fruits with this like raisons or cranberries or even apricots. The flavors will all work well together because the cheeses are not hand crafted or considered artesian.

If you are having a wine tasting with cheese and fruits you may be serving those that are considered hand crafted or artesian or perhaps with more flavor such as one made out of goat or sheep’s milk. They may also be flavored with herbs or pepper or other spices too. All of this has to be considered when pairing with fruits. In general, apples pair well with almost all of them. Especially if you choose a nice crisp juicy on the tart side apple. It is bland and juicy enough to work with most of them. Pears also seem to work well with most choices. Naturally you have to consider what wines are being tasted too.

If you are going to serve dried fruits such as figs or apricots which are sweeter and in the case of figs, have a distinct taste you could use a creamier textured one such as a brie which generally has it’s own flavor so that the two kind of meld together when chewed. And that makes a yummy cheese combination for sure.

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