Jansen offers cheese making tips for beginners

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Have you ever wondered how to make cheese or what is the difference between natural cheese verses processed cheese?

The Carroll County Extension Office will be hosting a “Beginning Cheese Making Class” on March 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., that will hopefully answer these questions. The class is going to be taught by Jim Graves, with hands on participation. The cost is $5 and lunch will be provided.

Cheese is a creamy blend of high-quality protein, milk-fat, minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, and vitamins such as riboflavin (vitamin B2). Cheese products vary, so you should refer to the product label for information about individual products. Cheese is also very versatile as it partners with many other wholesome foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grain breads, cereals, and carbohydrate rich pasta.

Cheese varieties

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, ennet, 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.

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 milk-fat 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.

Storing cheese

To maintain the original flavor, appearance, and quality, unopened cheese products should be stored in the refrigerator. To minimize moisture loss and odor exchange with other foods after the cheese is opened, keep it tightly wrapped. Surface mold should be cut off approximately one-half-inch from the surface, but use the cheese within one week. 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.

Natural cheese and Pasteurized Process Cheese will last in the refrigerator four to eight weeks after opening, if tightly wrapped to prevent surface drying. As a general rule, the harder the cheese, the longer it will remain fresh. Softer cheeses should be stored in a tightly sealed container and used within two weeks. Most natural cheeses freeze successfully for six to eight weeks. Hard cheeses freeze better than soft cheeses. Freezing does change the texture, but the flavor and nutritional value remain stable. Thawed cheese is best used in cooked dishes.

Cooking with cheese

Some cheeses do better when exposed to heat than others. Use low heat or just enough to melt the cheese and blend with other ingredients. High heat or long cooking times cause cheese to become tough and stringy.

When cooking with cheese, measure cheese based on weight. Four ounces of cheese equals one cup of shredded.

Summer Slaw
6 – 8 servings
1 pound Cabbage, shredded
1 red bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 cup fresh Spinach, cut into thin strips
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 cup Coleslaw Dressing, bottled

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Nutritional Analysis: 319 calories, 11 g protein; 24 g fat; 17 g carbohydrate.

Cathy Jansen is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030.