Sunday, May 28, 2017

What Unusual Traditions Involve Cheese?

Cheese is such a popular food in many areas of the world that it should come as no surprise that there are numerous traditions related to it. Some will involve eating cheese in ways that seem odd to Americans while others use the cheese in a different way entirely. Here are some of the unusual traditions involving cheese.
Cheese Rolling In England
Perhaps the most famous unusual cheese-related tradition is cheese rolling in Gloucestershire, England. This is a bank holiday that occurs in late spring and is an interesting take on racing. The race involves following a rolling round of cheese, specifically Double Gloucester, down a hill. The first person to cross the finish line wins. Tradition dictates that after this, the winner runs back up Cooper’s Hill, where this takes place. While this tradition may seem tame, injuries do occur, including concussions and broken bones. This tradition likely has its roots in Pagan traditions that celebrated rebirth following winter. Interestingly enough, it was officially banned because of health and safety concerns in 2010, but it still continues unofficially every year.
Cacio al Fuso In Italy
The British aren’t the only people to use cheese in unusual ways in their traditions. Cacio al Fuso is a game that is very similar to lawn bowls but uses an actual wheel of cheese as the ball. This game is played in Pienza, a Tuscan hilltop town known for its pecorino cheese. The game takes place in the Piazza Pio II, the central plaza in the town. During the game, you roll the cheese wheel towards the central wooden peg in the middle of a marble ring in the pavement. Keep in mind that you have to roll it from a designated rug at a certain distance, similar to how you release a bowling ball away from the pins. Outside of this ring, there are additional rings marked with chalk. You get points based on how close to the center ring you get. Amazingly enough, the marble ring used in the game was made around 500 years ago.
Traditions With Eating Cheese
In addition to unusual traditions that use cheese in interesting ways, some simply involve cheese choices that are unusual to some. There is a Sardinian traditional cheese made using sheep’s milk, for example, named Casu Marzu. This cheese is fermented until it starts to decompose and maggots form in it. Italy has outlawed it because of the danger associated with it, but you may find it on the black market for a high price. For a tradition you may be willing to try, go north to Canada and try poutine. The idea of putting cheese curds and gravy on fries is odd to many Americans, but this is an incredibly popular food in Canada.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What Makes Processed Cheese Unhealthy?

When most people think of cheese, they picture a healthy food that is versatile and can be eaten at any meal or as a snack. While natural cheese is healthy thanks to its dairy content, processed cheese is actually unhealthy. If your goal is to eat a well-balanced diet or to lose weight, natural cheese should be part of your life, but processed cheese should not.
Contains Chemicals And Additives
If you were to guess how much actual cheese there is in processed cheese, you will likely be surprised by the answer. U.S. food regulations say that processed cheese only has 51 percent natural cheese by weight. To make up the rest of this, there are plenty of additives you don’t necessarily need. Processed cheese has more salt, whey, and food coloring than natural unprocessed cheese. It also contains emulsifiers that keep the water and oil bound together.
Some Common Processed Cheese Ingredients
Although the ingredients in processed cheese can vary, many contain the following. Sodium phosphate is an artificial ingredient and emulsifier. In some cases, it has been linked to kidney-related health problems. Instead of starting with actual cheese, many processed cheeses will also contain milk protein concentrate, a dairy substitute that helps them keep production costs low. Of course, there are also food colorings like yellow tartrazine and yellow 6 in certain processed cheese. Both of those coloring additives have actually been banned in some parts of Europe due to the risk of tumors in the kidneys and adrenal glands.
In the case of spray-able processed cheese and certain spreadable ones, they also contain trisodium phosphate. This is a scary ingredient as it is a variation of a common emulsifier compound in stain-removers and cleansers.
Saturated Fat
Unfortunately, all cheese has saturated fat which is why you are supposed to eat it in moderation. Even so, processed cheese tends to have more saturated fats than unprocessed cheese. For example, a single slice will have 21 percent of your daily recommended limit for saturated fatty acids. Considering you are likely to have more than one slice and pair it with other saturated fats, this is a big concern. That is particularly true since the processed cheese won’t even provide you with nutritional benefits. Since it is only 51 percent actual cheese, you aren’t getting as much calcium, protein, or other nutrients as you would from unprocessed cheese. In other words, while unprocessed, natural cheese can be healthy as long as you don’t binge, processed cheese only hurts your health. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What Makes A Cheese Artisan?

As soon as you start looking for cheese to enjoy, you will quickly notice that some is labeled as artisan and some isn’t. The natural question then becomes what exactly makes a cheese artisan or qualifies cheese as artisanal? The answer makes perfect sense if you think about the definition of an artisan: someone who makes crafts or other items by hand or using the old-fashioned techniques. Keeping that in mind, artisan cheese is made in smaller batches and mostly by hand. In other words, limited mechanization is used and the cheese isn’t mass-produced.
Types Of Artisan Cheese
Because the only requirement for artisanal cheese is that it be made in small batches and mostly using traditional techniques or by hand, there is an incredible range of artisan cheese available. The small batches are key since this ensures that the cheese is of a higher quality and extra care is taken. You can find cheese of any age, with any type of milk, and with various flavorings as artisanal. This means you can find artisanal cheddar, artisanal Roquefort, artisanal goat cheese, and everything in between.
While artisanal cheese can technically be anything, with any type of milk, and any aging process, it does tend to follow a few guidelines. This cheese will typically be incredibly high quality and usually unpasteurized as this maintains the original flavor better. If you find an artisanal cheese in the United States, however, this won’t be the case since the FDA regulations require that cheese must mature for at least 60 days as this reduces the contamination risk so there is no potential for health issues.
Who Are The Artisans?
A cheese artisan is simply the person who makes the artisanal cheese. This means that anyone who puts the extra effort into their cheese-making process and avoids using mechanization can be a cheese artisan. While most people will reserve the term for those who regularly make cheese and then potentially sell it, anyone who makes cheese in the privacy of their home and does so by hand will technically be a cheese artisan.
Not All “Artisan Cheese” Is Truly Artisanal
It is important to keep in mind that the terms “artisanal” and “artisan” related to cheese are not protected. This means that anyone or any company can actually claim that their cheese is artisan even if it is mass-produced and/or relies on mechanization for production. If you truly want artisanal cheese, the best option is to get it from a specialty cheese retailer as they will hold themselves to higher standards than another store, like your local supermarket. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Four Ways To Tell If Cheese Is Bad

No matter how much you love cheese, you don’t want to eat it once it has gone bad. Since cheese is made from dairy, it needs to be stored properly and even when it is, it will eventually go bad. In addition to making sure you store your cheese correctly, there are a few things you can do to tell whether it has gone bad.
Sight
Perhaps the easiest way to tell whether your cheese has gone bad is to look at it. Just keep in mind that just because there is a little bit of mold, that doesn’t mean the cheese is bad. All cheese will grow mold eventually and this is natural. If you see a bit of surface mold, cut around a quarter inch off the side of the cheese with the mold. If you see more mold underneath, then it truly is bad. If there aren’t any other signs of mold or spoilage, then your cheese is safe. In addition to looking for mold, check to make sure the packaging isn’t bloated, oily, or slimy as these can all indicate it has gotten old. Also look at the texture and color; if they are different than they used to be, the cheese is probably bad.
Smell
Your sense of smell is another great tool to tell whether cheese is bad. The type of smell will vary based on the cheese but it may be like a freezer or refrigerator, ammonia, or spoiled milk. Ideally, you will smell the cheese right when you buy it so you can tell what it is supposed to smell like and have a comparison. Remember that certain cheeses are very pungent to begin with so smell won’t always mean it has gone bad.
Taste
If between your senses of smell and sight you still aren’t sure if the cheese is bad, give it a little nibble. Of course, you want to eat the minimum amount necessary to get the flavor and see whether it tastes like it normally does. This way, if it is bad, you aren’t likely to get sick. If the cheese has a bad aftertaste or tastes sour, toss it out.
Store It Properly
While storing your cheese properly won’t necessarily tell you that it is safe to eat, it will give you more confidence in the fact that it hasn’t gone bad. Cheese should be refrigerated at 34 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. It should also be wrapped up tightly in cheese paper or plastic wrap so mold spores won’t get in. Of course, you also have to consider the shelf life of the cheese in question. If you’ve had it longer than it should be good for, toss it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

What Cheese Is Best In Charcuterie?

Cheese is a classic appetizer for dinner parties and other social events and one of its many potential pairings is with charcuterie. If you aren’t sure what charcuterie is, this is essentially a range of dry-cured and cooked meats. This is a French appetizer course that also includes smooth pates and sausages, mustards, crusty baguettes, pickles, and cornichons among other savory bites. It goes great with cheese and you can enjoy the combination of your favorite cheeses and charcuterie in a restaurant or at home. If you plan on making this at home, you will need to know what cheeses go best with it.
Get A Variety Of Cheeses
As with any other cheese platter, one that combines this dairy product with charcuterie should offer a range of textures. Ideally, you want a minimum of one soft cheese and at least one or two cheeses that are semi-firm. This way, guests can pick and choose the texture that they prefer.
Things To Avoid
While a variety of cheeses will work well in charcuterie, there are a few types that should be avoided. You won’t typically want to include smoked cheese as these flavors will be similar to those of the smoked sausages and other smoked meats already on your tray; you want complimentary flavors, not repeats. You should also opt for cheese that is unflavored, meaning nothing that has added garlic, herbs, or other similar enhancements.
The Best Cheese To Include
Now that you know what to avoid, here are a few of the top cheeses to consider including in your charcuterie. If you want a soft cheese, consider Chevre, Camembert, or Brie as all of these will balance the flavors of the meats. Provolone is also an excellent choice since it has a smooth texture that contrasts with sausages. Opt for a Provolone that is either young or aged so you get mellow flavors. Gouda also goes well, either goat’s milk Gouda that is lightly colored or the cow’s milk variety that is slightly aged and the color of pale butterscotch. Going with a young Gouda is ideal as it will give you a smooth texture and buttery and milky flavor. Gruyere is another cheese made from cow’s milk that is great in charcuterie since its color and flavor both contrast with the dishes, delivering nutty, rich flavors. Finally, consider Manchego. This cheese made from sheep’s milk has a nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the meats on the charcuterie. 

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