Remembering The Government’s Commodity Food Service

My grandmother used to get it in Utah until she passed away and my mother would sometimes bring extra back home.

It's made by Land O'Lakes and it's on the government's Commodity Food Service.

My Mom will only buy Tillamook cheese now, because it is the closest to the quality we were getting.

I remember it was a lot of cheese that came packaged in a box kinda like velveeta is packaged in only much larger. They told me that they had to wait in a really long line to pick it up. I don't know if the program is still active at this point.

Cheese from the US Government, but I believe it's been discontinued in favor of other programs like TANF and SNAP.

"Once the dairy program was pulled and the food stamp program switched over to Link cards, Government Cheese was taken off the market."

Until the 90s or so, the government would buy and stockpile cheese to support/prop up the dairy industry, then they'd process that cheese into "government cheese" which was distributed to the poor. It was somewhat similar to Velveeta but would be made with random cheeses so the taste varied.

Published: April 13, 2017 | Comments: 0

Bread And Soup

It's raining and cold this weekend and I just made some split pea with ham hocks that was fantastic with a hearty 30% whole wheat, 10% rye and 5% buckwheat sourdough boule (I don't have a name for this bread, I just made it up).

Adding other flours to sourdough adds more depth of flavor and I find plain white sourdough kinda boring.

I like a thick crusted bread with a nice chewy interior to accompany soup.

The interior serves to mop up delicious broth and a nice chewy bread holds together while others might break up on saturation with broth. The solid crust serves as a robust handle for delivering the soup soaked bread to my yap hole.

But you can pick a flavor for your bread depending on what soups you have.

That said, you can really pair flavors however you like. You might like a rye bread with something like french onion soup, but not with a creamy carrot soup. You might like sourdough with chicken noodle but not with mushroom bisque. It's really up to your flavor preferences.

Published: April 7, 2017 | Comments: 0

Thats Not Smoked Gouda That’s “Hotdog Cheese”

When we first started eating "smoked" cheese we would call the smoked Gouda "hotdog cheese" because it both looks and tastes like a hotdog.

I'm not sure what is about Gouda but the smoking process really gives it a meaty flavor. It's not that way with other smoked cheeses. But definitely stick to what you like. Search for the Beemster XO. It's a beautiful orange color, aged 3 years out of holland.

So the smoked cheese gets its flavor from smoke. That could be done with actual smoke, and may well be the same equipment used to smoke Ham and Bacon. Although often now liquid smoke is just mixed into the cheese.

Liquid smoke is a substance produced from smoke passed through a tube from a combustion chamber filled with select wood chips to a condenser. In the condenser, the smoke cools and forms a liquid, aided by the addition of water. Liquid smoke is used for both food preservation and flavoring.
The European Food Safety Authority has found that some liquid smoke products contain In Vitro but not In Vivo carcinogenic genotoxic compounds.

Liquid smoke itself isn't necessarily bad but it's like oak chips in a steel vat for aging wine…it's a much faster process resulting in a flavor way too strong.

Aged cheeses get their flavour from enzyme action on fat and protein. Over time enzymes from the bacteria chop the protein up into smaller tastier pieces. You will see changes in texture as well as taste as a cheese ages. Takes ages though, and all that time cheese has to be stored somewhere, so is usually more expensive.

Some products, like cheese flavoured chips contain "enzyme modified cheese", which is basically young cheese that has been powdered and exposed to enzymes that chop up the proteins to give an intense "cheesey" flavor.

Much cheaper than the real deal.

Published: March 25, 2017 | Comments: 0

Mac n’ Cheese Without the Milk

You are sitting there, you have a nice provolone and you want Mac n' Cheese but wait. You don't have milk. The horror!

Can you still make it taste great?

You can do it without milk. Maybe add a little bit of extra butter, and be careful how much water you add, start with less, and add more as you need. It just might not taste as creamy.

For the future, I might suggest picking up a small box of powdered milk. I very rarely keep milk in my house, but I keep a box of powdered milk in case I'm cooking something that calls for it. It virtually never goes bad, and it's really convenient to have around, sometimes.

A can of evaporated milk, unsweetened, does wonderful things in Mac n' Cheese as well as mashed potatoes and gratins. I assume the powdered milk adds the same missing flavor and thickening properties to water?

I make a Mac n' cheese recipe with no dairy. One cup of provolone, half pound of macaroni, and two tablespoons of butter.

Boil the macaroni in salted water then drain and mix in the butter and provolone back in the same pot with the drained macaroni and that's it. I really like it a lot.

For milk itself, plain Greek yogurt instead of milk works really well if you happen to have it. I like it more than milk actually.

Published: March 25, 2017 | Comments: 0

Mexican Tacos Need The White, Shredded Cheese

If it crumbly find shreds it's probably Cotija. If it melts really well and has a mild flavor it's probably Oaxaca if it melts well and has a more "earthy" flavor it could be Chihuahua.

Depending on the brand cheeses labeled Quesadilla, or Asadero tend have a more salty flavor. I tend to stick with Oaxaca since some unscrupulous creameries label Monterrey Jack as Quesadilla and charge more for it.

  • Queso Chihuahua: white, mild, melts really well like American cheese.
  • Queso Oaxaca: white/yellow, stringy, melts okay.
  • Queso Fresco: white, crumbly, mild, doesn't melt well.
  • Queso Cotija: white, crumbly, salty, doesn't melt well.

Most of the time it's queso chihuahua people love — it's basically American cheese. Super creamy, smooth, wonderful.

It's soft enough you might think it was white american until you tasted it.

I know what you're talking about. But it's different from you can normally get. They get it from a food distributor. Just like you can never find cheeses as good as what they use at pizza places or burger joints. At subway they have american cheese that's amazing, nothing like store bought american cheese. Used to work at a place and the normal sounding things they ordered were just so much better than anything you'd find at a grocery store. Used to order this amazing blue cheese dip, I miss it so much, but you can't get it anywhere except from a distributor.

Hope this helps explain why when you try all the cheeses others have mentioned, none of them will really live up it to the real deal american Mexican restaurant white cheese dream.

Cotija is another great one that blows fresco out of the water flavor-wise. If you're ever thinking about oaxaca or fresco you should try chihuahua and cotija instead for better flavor/texture.

And as you surely know Mexican tacos don't have cheese, it's an American thing, but I love cheese on mine.

Published: March 22, 2017 | Comments: 0

Adding Egg Whites To My Bread

All my egg white increases have been in quick breads, so that isn't helpful. But – in case your goal is adding protein to your bread without negatively impacting the texture: using the whey from homemade cheese is a flavorful replacement for water in yeast breads that has not resulted in dryness, flatness, or scorch risk for me.

I don't recall the impact on crumb.

Don't expect egg whites to strengthen the gluten structure. Any old protein won't form a springy dough that can handle air bubbles the way gluten can. Gluten is special because it has long strands that can line up and link together.

This is why dough gets tight and stiff as you knead it; all those gluten strands are being lined up.

I'm not sure if your goal is using egg whites or getting bigger air bubbles… if you just want to use egg whites, make a soft enriched bread. If you want a nice chewy loaf with an open crumb, make a high hydration lean dough.

I don't have a scale so it is a little bit more about eying it. My challah recipe, which I use on a regular basis:

  • Tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg white (set aside the yolk for the wash)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 5 1/2 cups flour (wheat or white)
  • 6 cups fir high altitude
  • 1/4 cup gluten if using a high percentage of wheat

(I make this using the bread machine dough cycle) Combine water yeast and sugar. Mix and let stand for 10 minutes until it is very foamy. Add the rest of the ingredients in order, mixing well after each one. Once the dough is formed, knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise until doubled. Heat oven to 350 F. Punch down and shape as desired. Cover and let rise for 10-15 minutes Mix the yolk with a little water and paint it gently with a brush. Sprinkle with seeds (poppy ,sesame, sunflower, etc) Bake in preheated oven until bottom is hard when you tap on it.(about 25 min.) Remove, place on rack to cool for at least 15 min.

Published: March 11, 2017 | Comments: 0

Port Salut Rind

When ate my first Port Salut I loved it. However, there was a bright orange rind on the side of the cheese, I ate it, but then had second thoughts.

This was early into my cheese career, and a Port Salut was super exotic for me. Now I am actually a cheese monger.

So did I make a mistake?

On an authentic Port Salut the rind is find to eat but as with a lot of edible rinds it is personal preference to eat it or not. But that does not mean that they all have this edible rind on them. Many of the ones you find will have a plastic-coated wrapper which is not edible. Becareful and understand how your cheese is prepared, and what has been done with it.

I saw a comment about Annatto only being used in cheddar.

That is false!

Pretty much every cheese that isn't pure white has small amounts of the ground seed for coloration. Some examples are Shropshire blue, beemster aged Goudas and Cotswold. Some farmer's (boeren) Gouda doesn't and they are just slightly yellow from ageing but almost white.

My suggestion is is you are unsure of a rind being edible do not eat it. Once you find somebody that sells then with edible rind you can see the difference and you will know right away if it's paper, wax or other non food materials but overall no rind will actually be harmful to your health if you eat it.

Published: February 19, 2017 | Comments: 0

Warm Cheese

Think of it this way: cheese was a normal part of everyday diet for most of the world for centuries before invention of modern refrigeration. It doesn't need to remain at a consistent 33-38F for every moment of it's existence otherwise it will rapidly spoil.

A cheese like brie is actually much better at room temperature than refrigerated–it softens up and will have a much creamier texture as well as more pronounced aroma. In France a lot of families don't even refrigerate their cheese at all, they stick it in paper though, or put it on a plate covered by another plate.

Traditionally it (and most cheeses) would have been kept "cool" in a cellar or cave for storage, somewhere between "room temperature" and modern refrigeration. For serving it is recommended that you actually leave it out on the counter for 30-60 min. or so to come up to room temperature.

Unless you live somewhere tropical with lots of fungus or mold issues, by leaving it out overnight you have only slightly shortened the expected shelf life of a cheese which would normally be perfectly fine for weeks in the refrigerator, especially since it was already sealed in a container that would keep out germs/bacteria anyway. The biggest threat to spoilage of a cheese would be exposure to mold spores through the air, and being in a plastic bag basically means the likelihood of that happening is low.

If it was already contaminated with mold before you put in the bag, then you have only accelerated the process a little by giving it a better climate to grow and it will just get moldy a little bit sooner (maybe a couple days) that it would have it you had not left it out.

I think it is quite strange that people are so paranoid about food spoilage with things like this. Do you know how this stuff is made? How do you think people survived before the 1940s?

also, as a side note I'd recommend storing it in something other than plastic.

It actually benefits the cheese if it can "breathe". Brie typically comes wrapped in some type of parchment paper-type product (or special cheese paper) for this reason and typically that is all you need so it is overkill to then put it inside a plastic bag on top of that. Brie goes bad in two ways. It becomes ammoniated and smells VERY VERY strongly of ammonia. Or it goes moldy.

Yes, it will allow a little moisture to escape and it can get dry over a long period of time, but plastic is worse because it holds in too much moisture (or traps moisture from the atmosphere) and can actually cause it to go bad faster and develop "off" flavor and texture.

Paper is adequate to keep out mold spores and other things that will make you cheese go bad so it isn't necessary to have something airtight or impermeable.

Published: February 3, 2017 | Comments: 0

Good Cheese From Costco

It is a bit regional, as well as seasonal. Mine has Colliers "powerful Welsh Cheddar. " Definitely my go to when I need a lot of Cheddar for a recipe. Costco likes to source from local/regional producers when feasible, and they often carry items only during certain times of year.

On the west coast (maybe elsewhere) they have great prices on Tillamook brand cheeses (I recommend the extra sharp white cheddar) but in the NE you will find Cabot and in the midwest probably Wisconsin brands.

But I believe you will find the same Kirkland brand parmiggiano-reggiano and grana padano at unbeatable prices for high quality stuff anywhere you go.

Fortunately a dry hard cheese like that will keep for a long time—I use a ton of the stuff but those massive wedges last a long time anyway.

Costco is one of the few places where you don't need to be concerned about the quality of their Kirkland house brand products, they are often equivalent or better to the major name brands, and almost never worse.

Published: January 23, 2017 | Comments: 0

Sharpest Cheddar In Town

I used to hear fellow mongers have the exact same conversation you just had all the time. I understand how it can be helpful to push people toward more useful descriptors, but don't kid yourself. You know exactly what they want & it isn't Montgomery's.

The point still stands, right? People mean so many things when they say "sharp," that its worth delving in to. if they just mean aged, then its typically a wax or vacuum-sealed cheddar that's 5 years old from Canada.

There is definitely an unspoken role of cultural ambassador.

That's also why it's so important to be welcoming, people can get really defensive when they're out of their element. I like to just start handing them samples without asking too many questions, then seeing where they take me from there. Guidance and kindness are super important on the cheese counter.

That's because when people ask for a sharp cheddar they aren't asking for a farmhouse cheddar, they're looking for a new york aged cheddar. Unfortunately a lot of specialty shops choose not to stock wax-rind cheddars so the best direction to go is often gouda or pecorino.

There is nothing wrong with people who like that sharp bite.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you like super sharp cheddar you might also want to give aged provolone a shot. It's not the same as the sandwich cheese. Here's an example of what I'm talking about, although I'd prefer it look more like this. You want the stuff that's getting toward the consistency of parmesan. That's sharp.

Published: January 22, 2017 | Comments: 0