Sunday, April 29, 2012

Real versus Processed Cheese

People are becoming increasingly more aware of what they eat. This has led to the preference of eating more natural foods as opposed to the unhealthy processed foods. So when it comes to cheese, how do you tell the authentic real cheese from the knock off processed variety? Simple, the answer is in the taste. Undoubtedly, real cheese will have a distinct taste and flavor from the processed cheese. It is said that if you are accustomed to the real stuff, you can smell a fake from a mile. This is true also for cheese. If you smell real cheese you will get a sweet earthy or fruity scent while the processed variety gives you a cooked milk smell.

Real cheese is a product of fermentation that takes place over a length of time. In some cases the aging process of cheese may last up to several years. This is a painstaking process that ensures you end up with good quality cheese that is also healthy for you. The products used for this processes are usually natural and no artificial colors and flavorings are added. This is not the case with processed cheese.
Processed cheese is just that, real cheese with several unhealthy additives, such as emulsifiers, fats and oils and unnatural flavors and colors all cooked together. This is done ostensibly so that the cheese is more manageable. Real cheese does come apart on heating to high temperatures, separating into water and solid, especially the soft cheese varieties. Processed cheese is heated to high temperatures of up to 180 degrees so that it stays together during cooking. If you want to tell the real cheese from the fake one, you will notice that real cheese flakes off on bending while the processed one is sort of rubbery and jelly like.
Taste is one of the ways in which you can distinguish real cheese from processed cheese. The latter has some salt added into it which makes it very salty indeed. The real cheese will give a savory or fruity taste depending on the type of cheese. The saltiness is awful and quite unnatural. It also raises concerns health wise due to the amount of sodium present.

One of the very distinctive features of real cheese is that it does not have a shiny, polished look. You should be able to discern this without even touching it, so it becomes fairly easy to shop for the authentic cheese. This should be the easiest and fast way of telling the real from the fake.

One of the reasons for having processed cheese is so that it can have an extended shelf life. This is why it is usually not refrigerated and can stay that way for a very long time. Authentic cheese will never survive without refrigeration and this is part of its allure. Processed cheese is usually heated to a liquid and then fashioned into blocks or slices. Some of these are packed individually in wrappers for convenience during usage. However, real cheese is usually cut from a block and packed in slices. Make sure you buy your cheese from a reliable authentic cheese monger and be assured of quality.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Is Moldy Cheese Safe to Eat?

The process of cheese making starts with separating the solid milk curds from the liquid whey. This is usually facilitated by acidifying fresh milk. Commercially, this acidification process is known as curdling and it is characterized by the addition of rennet and some bacterial cultures. The cultures can be eliminated since vinegar or some lemon juice will help the milk to curdle just as well. Rennet is a necessary ingredient in cheese making and it is a natural compound found in the fourth stomach of unweaned ruminants. It is acidic and helps the young animals to digest the milk.

Rennet is very important indeed in cheese making since it makes the curds rubbery and gel like in texture as opposed to the loose curds from acidifying the milk only. This foundation is important to lay if we are going to answer the question of the safety of moldy cheese effectively. Well, the answer is both yes and no. If you are going to eat moldy cheese, you need to get some facts straight first. You cannot just trim off the mold and continue eating the cheese you need to know what kind of cheese it is before doing this.

Some people confuse bacteria and fungus. You may think that since some bacteria is added into the cheese making process then it is safe to eat moldy cheese. However, there is a difference between bacteria and mold. Mold is a fungus and the bacteria used in cheese making is done so in a controlled environment and so it is safe for human consumption. The bacteria adding step in most cheese making processes is usually skipped as long as another option is available to aid in the acidifying of the milk curds.

It is important to point out that some mold is used in the production of some cheeses especially the blue ones and the soft ripened ones like camembert and brie. Penicillium is the most commonly used mold and some cheese names actually come from the type of mold used, for example, Roquefort made from penicillium roqueforti. Notice it is some and not all or most cheeses. Any mold that was not incorporated in the production process means that something is wrong. The assumption that cheese is just mold so it is safe to consume moldy cheese is very wrong.

As a rule of thumb, any mold on soft cheese such as goats, feta and cottage cheeses, is an indication that it has gone bad and should be thrown out. This is true for any grated cheese, whether hard or soft. The structure of soft cheese allows the mold to penetrate deeper into the cheese and spoil the entire block. It is an avenue for diseases through dangerous bacteria such as brucella, listeria and E. coli. Mold on hard and semi-soft cheeses such as Swiss, Colby and Cheddar can be scrapped off and the cheese eaten safely. Just make sure you cut at least an inch around and into the mold. Keep the knife from touching the mold to avoid the risk of contaminating other parts of the cheese block.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Cheese Safe for Pets?

Cheese is a wonderful delicacy for most people living in America. In most cases, you will realize that those people who use cheese a lot also have pets, and they feed them too on cheese. There is always a mixed opinion whether it is really safe for dogs and cats to be fed on cheese. This kind of reaction may be based on several factors that contribute to fear that cheese could cause problems to pets unnecessarily. Mostly pets will eat almost all types of foods that man eats with a few exceptions. As much as you have a dog or cat, there is no harm to feed them on cheese. This is because, cheese may have a lot of health benefits for them just like it has for human beings. However, there is need to be a little cautious with the way you feed your dog or cat on cheese.

In fact, it is not the style of feedings as much that matters, but the kind of cheese that you feed them on. The concentration level of the cheese that you use will determine how safe it is for your cat or dog to eat it. If it is concentrated, it may end up causing stomach problems in cats or even in dogs. The amount of sharpness of cheese will also matter a lot when you are planning to feed dog's on cheese. Sharper cheese may be unfriendly to pets which feed on it.

On the other hand, there are important benefits of cheese that humans get which even pets can enjoy. This means that if you deny them this, they will never gain from the same benefit. For example:

1.Fat and Calorie content: The amount of calorie that is found in cheese is well balanced which makes it good for consumptions. Although one would consider that this is just helpful for human, the truth is that that controlled level of calorie is also an advantage for pets. Fats are not very nice for feeding pets. Cheese has a good amount of fat in it and hence there is no worry feeding pets on cheese.

2.Digestibility: Cheese is highly and sufficiently digestible. Unlike other milk products cheese is made friendly for good digestion which means that when consumed, most of it gets into the body for use. Feeding pets on this will have no harm except that there is need to control the amount of cheese that you give to your pet. If you want to give pets some food that has low lactose concentration, cheese forms the best option that majority of people have found to work.

3.Human beings usually need calcium for the formation of strong born structure. The same applies to animals. Cheese is one type of food which has a good amount of calcium making it highly recommended for pets, apart from human beings themselves.

Depending on what you are interested in giving your pet, cheese is important in unleashing another energy that would not be easy to get from other types of foods produced from animal products.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How to Serve Cheese Properly

Cheese is a classy and versatile dairy food that can be enjoyed as a hors d'oeuvre, used in the entrée and also served as part of the dessert. This delicacy made by curdling milk has a longer shelf life than milk yet it has the same nutritional advantages, if not more, as milk. Different types of milk are used to produce cheese and these gives varied flavors. Cheese from goat milk has a distinct flavor from cow milk cheese. Usually cheese is stored in the refrigerator and not the freezer. It should be allowed to reach room temperature before serving for the full flavor and benefits to be realized. This is the first rule in serving cheese properly.

The versatility of cheese is further displayed in the different vessels on which it can be served. You may choose to use a wooden block or a plate depending on your theme, availability and just personal preference. Whichever vessel you choose, make sure it is not crowded. If you intend to serve several types of cheeses, then either get a bigger cheese board or serve cheese on different smaller boards. A well arranged cheese board ensures that it is easy to cut the cheese.

The number of guests you are expecting should guide you on how much cheese to serve. Another determinant is whether it is a hors d’oeuvre or a dessert platter. Usually a cheese dessert platter will require you to serve less cheese, while an appetizer will require more. This is especially if the serving style is buffet and your guests are eaters or if you are serving a light entrée.

Since cheeses have different flavors, arrange them in a sequence on the plate. Start with the strongest, usually the blues, to the mildest in a clockwise manner. Make sure your plate is neat and keep the cheese within the rim of the plate. You may choose to pre-cut your cheese into slices or cubes. However do this just prior to serving so that the cut surface does not get too dry, especially if the cheese is rindless.

Always ensure that there is a suitable cheese knife to cut the cheese if you have not pre-cut it. If possible have different knives for different cheeses so that the flavors do not get all mixed up. Softer cheeses like goat cheese should be served with a spoon for easy spreading.

The accompaniment for your cheese will bring out different flavors and enhance others. Usually crackers are good as they can be used as a palate cleanser. Bread is more commonly used and is the best accompaniment for cheese. Nutty and fruity breads are the most interesting accompaniment and should be tried for extra flavor. Other accompaniments are nuts, dried fruits or a date cake. These can be served on a side plate or on the cheese board for a more creative presentation. Onion slices are great for the strong blues.

A drink is essential when serving cheese. Wine is the finest choice though water may also be served. The wine served with the entrée should do well with a dessert cheese dish. However you can also pick a different wine for a cheese dessert. Try strong cheeses with syrupy wines and enjoy the intensified flavor.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How to Properly Trim the Mold off of Cheese

Cheese is a very delicious and nutritious dairy food used in a number of ways to create sumptuous meals. This dairy by-product is made from fermenting milk and the beauty of it is that milk from any animal can be used to produce cheese. This of course results in a wide variety of cheese flavors. Flavor is further enhanced by the production process aside from the natural source. Certain flavor enhancers are added in the processing to produce different types of cheeses.

The production process can be summed up into three distinct stages, the curdling, the curd processing and the ripening stages. The curdling is the very initial stage where the milk is encouraged to ferment by the addition of rennin or other such fermentation enhancers. Once the curds are formed and the whey (liquid) has separated, then the processing begins depending on the expected cheese type. These are stretching, cheddaring or washing.

Ripening takes from a few days to years and is the final stage in cheese making. The time taken to ripen cheese enhances its flavor and texture. During this stage there are some bacteria and molds that are added to produce certain types of cheeses such as the Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, Stilton, Limburger and Gorgonzola. These are allowed to grow into the cheese and they result in that distinctive flavor and texture characteristic of these cheeses.

As is to be expected of all dairy foods, cheese is very perishable and should be stored in the right conditions. If this is not done, then food poisoning could result from the growth of harmful bacteria such as salmonella, brucella and listeria not to mention E. coli. This is what happens when mold grows on a piece of cheese, disease is looming.

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