Every cheese-loving snob has their favorites. Perhaps it's an ultra-stinky, runny, barely legal Epoisses. Or a crumbly, sharp-yet-sweet aged cheddar. Or a sinfully rich, luxurious triple creme.
But then there are those other "cheeses." You know what we're talking about. Kraft singles. Velveeta. They melt like a dream and taste like childhood, because that's what we grew up eating in our grilled cheese sandwiches and mac and cheese. And sometimes, even the snobbiest of cheese snobs has a soft spot for these highly processed cheese-like ingredients. Because there's nothing quite like dipping a tortilla chip into a warm, gooey bowl of melted Velveeta mixed with Rotel.
But have you ever wondered what exactly is *in* those plastic-looking unnaturally-hued products? Or were you too afraid to ask? Well, as Business Insider reports, processed cheese is actually made of…real cheese.
USDA research chemist Michael Tunick reveals that processed cheeses like Kraft singles and Velveeta are a mix of older cheeses that are ground up, then combined with an emulsifier (to create a smooth consistency) and processed in a way that ensures the cheese melts easily.
Interestingly, it was J.L. Kraft himself who invented processed cheese, according to Tunick: "Trade name for that would be Velveeta for instance. That name comes from the word 'velvet,' meaning the texture. It was invented right before World War I by J.L. Kraft, who was trying to get rid of some of his older cheeses so he mixed it with some of his newer cheeses and came up with Kraft American Cheese."
"Ever since then, cheese companies have been doing that kind of thing," he added
Fascinating. And though this practice is totally legal, the Food and Drug Administration does have some regulations around labeling—processed cheeses must be called "pasteurized processed cheese spread" or "pasteurized processed cheese food" or similar.
So next time you're slapping a Kraft single on top of your burger, rest assured—there's real cheese in there. Though depending on where you get your beef from, we can't make a similar claim about your burger.
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