Kitchen TipsLabel Reading

Cheese?

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We were at the grocery store a few days ago picking up the ingredients for Dominik to make nachos. We picked out most of the ingredients and then headed to the cheese section. We usually grate our own cheese because it tastes better and isn’t as dry, but Dominik happened to pick up a bag of pre-shredded cheese and read the back of it. This is what it said:

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Click to zoom. (I’ve blurred out all the brand names.)

The potato starch, corn starch, and calcium sulfate are there to keep the cheese from sticking together. That’s what gives pre-shredded cheese the powdery feel. One time I tried making my favorite pimento cheese recipe with pre-shredded cheese with disastrous results. I ended up using four times the amount of mayonnaise to keep it from being too dry and then the end result tasted terrible. Although it is convenient, these added ingredients can really affect the flavor and texture.

The last ingredient on the list is natamycin. This is added to prevent mold growth, which is why shredded cheese can have a much longer shelf life than some other dairy products. Natamycin is an anti fungal most commonly used to treat eye infections.

These were the same basic ingredients on all the conventional pre-shredded cheese packages we picked up (both store and name brands).

Now, I’m not mentioning this to scare you or convince you that you should never buy pre-shredded cheese again, but I do think most of us don’t take the time to check the ingredients on something we expect to be so simple. Cheese is cheese, right?

For comparison, here is an organic, pre-shredded cheese:

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This one is a store brand and only has cellulose added to prevent caking.

So, that’s great, but if I don’t want antifungals in my cheese can I just buy a block of cheese?

Not so fast.

Unfortunately, it is hit or miss. The most common name brand cheese in most stores still contains these ingredients, however, a few of the smaller brands and even our store brand do not include these ingredients. Here is an example of the store brand:

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No unusual ingredients here.

Again, I’m not trying to convince busy people that there’s never a time for pre-shredded cheese, but it is much more economical to buy the block. Have you ever compared the price per ounce of a block and the pre-shredded? You are definitely paying a higher price for the convenience. It only takes a few minutes to shred the cheese on your own and many cheese graters can go in the dishwasher. You can even shred it in a food processor! Plus, you’re getting cheese without all the additives.

Next time you’re buying cheese I challenge you to check the ingredients. Buy what is best for your situation, but you might enjoy how great freshly shredded cheese tastes and you’ll save money too! You might even involve a family member in the shredding.

Have a gouda day!

Cheese puns are grate…

okay, I’ll stop.

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