As a tribute to the Green Bay Packers and cheeseheads everywhere, today's blog will be about ways to green up the cheese in our diet (in this case, green is not about mold!). In an informal poll on my personal Facebook page yesterday, cheese was an overwhelming favorite ingredient in many of the planned foods for Superbowl festivities.
Most of the cheese used in recipes will be purchased in convenient, pre-shredded 2 cup plastic bags. Block cheese is really a much more economical and frugal choice. A typical one pound block of cheese will net nearly twice as many cups of pre-shredded cheese. Additionally, pre-shredded cheese contains a lot of additives we'd rather limit in our diet.
To keep the shredded cheese from sticking together, it is coated with a cellulose product known as natamycin. This is the preferred anti-caking agent of the dairy industry. It's also sawdust. This is something we'd rather not to pay for by the pound or eat on my food. Additionally, once cheese is shredded, it exposes more surface of the cheese to air which encourages mold growth. Therefore, already shredded cheese utilizes benzoates as a preservative. Benzoates are a common allergen, and listed as a product to avoid if you have such allergies.
What we like to do is purchase blocks of cheese to pre-shred (using our food processor because we like convenience as much as the next guy!), and freeze into 2 cup bags (that we've washed and reused because really does a zipper seal bag go bad after one use?). If we just need a little, we use a hand grater.
A safe cheese handling report from Clemson University includes these tips for shredding and freezing cheese:
- Freeze pieces of a half-pound or less.
- Use moisture-proof and airtight wrapping.
- Freeze quickly and store at 0 °F for two to six months.
- Thaw in refrigerator so cheese won't lose moisture; the slower the cheese is thawed, the better.
- Use as soon as possible after thawing.
So we tip our hat to the Green Bay Packers win, and encourage you to enjoy your cheese wisely!