THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website,

PRODUCT: American Cheese (What Is It?)

September 18th was National Cheeseburger Day. It inspired us to create this history of the cheese that tops more cheeseburgers than any other: American cheese.

But is American cheese “real” cheese? Not in the sense that blue, cheddar, Swiss and other cheeses are.

It is made from milk, but not with the traditional cheese-making process of separating curds from whey and then packing the curds into a block.

Instead, it is made by by processing cheese trimmings with emulsifiers, salt, and coloring, classified by the USDA as “processed cheese.”

  • It is made by combining milk, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, whey, whey protein concentrate and salt, plus colorant.
  • It does not use enzymes or bacteria to give it a distinct flavor, as do conventional cheeses. Instead, additives gives it its texture and flavor.
  • Different manufacturers vary the percentage of cheese product in American cheese, as well as the amount of additives that are used for emulsification. Kraft singles are only 51% cheese, and that percent was required by law just to get it called processed cheese.
  • White and orange American cheeses are the same product, except that the orange version is colored with annatto, a natural dye made from the pulp of a tropical fruit.
  • Loved for its meltability, American cheese was long the best-selling cheese in the U.S., until it was surpassed by mozzarella last year (from all the pizza consumed [source]).

    British colonists arrived in America with a preference for cheddar cheese. In the New World, before the advent of commercial producers, a basic cheese was made at home.

    The first cheese factory in the U.S., founded in 1851 in New York, made cheese that anyone could buy—thus saving the housewife the labor of making cheese.

    The proprietor, Jesse Williams, purchased milk from local herds and pooled it to make cheese. Other cheese-makers followed suit.

    Soon, generic, factory*-made cheddar became common throughout the country.

    Terminology evolved such that many Americans simply called this type of cheddar “store cheese” or “yellow cheese.”
    How American Cheese Got Its Name

    These early colonial cheddars weren’t as tasty as fine English cheddars, but they were so cheap that they could be shipped to England and sold for a profit.

    By 1878, Americans were exporting more than 300 million pounds of cheese to England each year.

    British consumers didn’t think much of the quality of the “Yankee cheddar” or “American cheese,” but it sold well due to its low price [source].
    The Dawn Of Modern American Cheese

    In 1916 James L. Kraft, a cheddar cheese wholesaler in Chicago, patented a process to reduce waste of leftover pieces of cheese.

    He shredded the cheddar, re-pasteurized it through heating, and added some sodium phosphate as an emulsifier.

    The resulting product was cheaper than cheddar, with a longer shelf life—and, may we add, far less flavorful, and made from inferior cheese.

    But money talks, and it sold well. By 1930 Kraft cheese represented 40% of cheese consumed in the U.S. [source].

    The name “American cheese” gradually came to refer to Kraft’s processed cheese [source].

    Hand-sliced at the store, the cheese slices would vary in thickness, dryness, etc. It took 15 years to figure out how to slice the rectangular bricks of cheese into individual slices (not as easy as it sounds—read the story here).

    But in 1950, Kraft De Luxe Process Slices, eight square slices sized for a piece of bread, debuted. They became a go-to for burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese omelets and more.

    However, it was not an ideal solution. The it was typically difficult to peel the slices apart without tearing them.

    In 1956, an outside inventor patented machinery to create individually-wrapped slices of cheese. Kraft created a similar technology, and Kraft Singles were introduced in 1965 (source).
    Velveeta & Cheez Whiz

    Velveeta is a processed cheese product that tastes like American cheese, but softer and spreadable.

    Invented in 1916, it was sold to Kraft in 1927. Customers love its meltability.


    Block Of American Cheese
    [1] American cheese has always been made in a block. It was sliced in the store before the advent of packaged slices. It is a favorite for grilled cheese sandwiches because of its meltability (photo © Boarshead).

    Bacon Cheeseburger
    [2] The vast majority of cheeseburgers use American cheese (photo © Smokey Bones Restaurant | Aventura, FL).

    Philly Cheesesteak
    [3] Philly Cheesesteak. Here’s the recipe from Taste Of Home (photo © Taste Of Home).

    [4] While we prefer cheddar on our nachos, American cheese has superior meltability. Velveeta and Cheez Whiz are the preferred solution for many (photo © Rick’s Picks).

    Breakfast Biscuits
    [5] Breakfast biscuits. Here’s the recipe from Taste Of Home (photo © Taste Of Home).

    Velveeta has even less cheese than American cheese, and is labeled by the USDA as a “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product” [source].

    Cheez Whiz, classified as a cheese sauce or spread, is made of whey (a protein byproduct of milk), oil, sodium-heavy flavorings, and colorants and emulsifiers that make it bright yellow and shelf-stable.

    October is American Cheese Month, but it doesn’t celebrate the American cheese in this article.

    Instead, it celebrates the fine artisan cheeses made by American cheesemakers. Here’s more about it.

    *Here, “factory” does not refer to today’s massed-produced cheeses, but to cheese still handmade, but in larger batches.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Kracklin Kamut®, Khorasan Wheat

    Kamut Grains
    [1] A bowl of Kamut grains. Here’s how to cook it from Vegan Lovlie (photo © Vegan Lovlie).

    Kamut Kernels
    [2] A close up of the grains, three times the size of conventional wheat grains (photo © Purcell Mountain Farms).

    Cooked Kamut
    [3] Cooked Kamut grains (photo © Vegan Lovlie).

    Kracklin Kamut
    [4] Kracklin Kamut, our Top Pick Of The Week (photo © Kracklin Kamut).

    Butternut Squash & Kamut Gratin
    [5] Butternut squash and kamut gratin. Here’s the recipe from Vegan Lovlie (photo © Vegan Lovlie).

    Kamut Salad
    [6] Kamut salad with blood oranges, toasted almonds and parsley. Here’s the recipe from Well And Full (photo © Well And Full).


    Have you heard of Kamut (kah-MOOT)? If so, do you know what it is?

    Kamut® is a trademarked brand of khorasan wheat, one of those better-for-you ancient grains you read about.

    Originally from the Fertile Crescent, Kamut khorasan wheat is grown in the U.S. on certified organic farms, primarily in Montana and other northern Great Plains of the U.S.

    It is a whole grain.

    Our Top Pick Of The Week is Kracklin Kamut, one of many products with the grain.

    You can jump to our review below, or first discover more about Kamut wheat.

    Kamut is an ancient relative of modern durum wheat, a hard amber spring-type wheat.

  • It is two to three times the size of common wheat grains and can be substituted for common wheat.
  • It has 20%–40% more protein than conventional wheat, and is, higher in lipids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
  • It is an excellent source of protein, fiber, and many vitamins; and is high in minerals including selenium*.
  • It is easily digested (as wheat, it does contain gluten). Many people with sensitivities to modern wheat report being able to eat Kamut khorasan wheat with no difficulty.
  • It is sustainably grown.
  • It has a positive impact on blood insulin and glucose for patients with diabetes, and benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease and IBS (source).
    The Kamut brand is the original grain as it was cultivated from the wild, un-altered by breeding and hybridizing.

    As an important note, many, if not most, of agricultural products have been bred and re-bred since ancient times.

    This is done to produce versions that have higher yields, are disease- and weather-resistant, and/or grow better in different climates.

    In the process, flavor, nutrition and other features are sacrificed.

    With Kamut, you know you have the real deal, the true ancient grain: nutritious, ancient wheat with a rich, buttery flavor and firm texture (photo # 1).

    The Kamut brand of khorasan is guaranteed to never be hybridized or genetically modified. It is always organically grown.

    Khorasan-type wheats originated in the Fertile Crescent, in what is now Mesopotamia. The Quinns coined the trade name “Kamut” an ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Egyptologists claim the root meaning of Kamut is “Soul of the Earth.”

    Although the Kamut brand wheat is thousands of years old, it was off the radar for a few thousand years. Its resurrection sounds like a tall tale.

    Following World War II, a U.S. airman claimed to have taken a handful of grains from a stone box in a tomb near Dashare, Egypt.

    Thirty-six kernels of the grain were given to a friend who mailed them to his father, a Montana wheat farmer. The farmer planted and harvested a small crop and displayed the grain as a novelty at the local fair.

    Believing the legend that the giant grain kernels were taken from an Egyptian tomb, the grain was dubbed “King Tut’s Wheat” (source).

    But soon after, the ancient grain was again all but forgotten.

    [Farmers in Turkey call the grain “Camel’s Tooth” because of its shape, or the “Prophet’s Wheat,” referring to another legend that Noah brought the grain with him on the ark. Beyond the tomb tale, the grain may in fact have existed in small pockets in Mesopotamia.]

    In 1977, one remaining jar of “King Tut’s Wheat” was obtained by T. Mack Quinn, another Montana wheat farmer. He and his son Bob, an agricultural scientist and plant biochemist, soon perceived the value of the unique grain.

    They spent the next decade propagating some of the humped-backed kernels selected from the small jar. Their research revealed that wheats of this type originated in the Fertile Crescent.

    The Quinns coined the brand name “Kamut,” an ancient Egyptian word for wheat. Egyptologists say the root meaning of Kamut is “soul of the Earth.”

    In 1990, the USDA recognized the grain as a protected variety. The Quinns also registered Kamut as a trademark.

    Perhaps the most significant aspect of the introduction and cultivation of Kamut brand wheat is that it is an important new crop for sustainable agriculture. This grain’s ability to produce high quality without artificial fertilizers and pesticides make it an excellent crop for organic farming (source).

    When you roast Kamut kernels, you get Kracklin Kamut: a most delightful, crunchy, flavorful, satisfying snack.

    Made in small batches with Montana-grown Kamut and organic, cold-pressed, hi-oleic safflower oil†. It is lightly seasoned with sea salt from ancient caves in Utah (from a sea that evaporated millions of years ago).

    Like crunchy corn nuts, we enjoy it as a grab-and-go snack, but this simple, clean roasted grain is delicious on salads—green and fruit—on vegetables, rice and grains.

    A 1.5-ounce pack has 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein and no cholesterol, trans fat or sugar. The product is also USDA organic and non-GMO.

    It’s available at natural food stores and online. Learn more about it at

    Because of its higher nutrition, you can now find Kamut in dozens of products, from baby’s and children’s food and breakfast cereals cold and hot, to energy bars and snacks.

    Kamut can be found in cereals, breads, cookies, snacks, waffles, pancakes, bread mixes, baked goods, and prepared and frozen meals.

    Because of the inherent sweetness of the grain (referred to by some as “the sweet wheat”), no added sugar is required to hide the subtle bitterness associated with most wheats and whole wheat products.

    The natural firmness of the cooked kernels lend themselves to:

  • Any grain dish (rice, couscous, quinoa, etc.)
  • Chili and other dishes, as a substitute for beans
  • Cold salads
  • Pasta (made from Kamut)
  • Pilafs
  • Soups
    In addition to Kamut pasta, which has outstanding texture and flavor compared to other whole grain pastas, you can also find Kamut brand bulgur and couscous.

    You can see a list of Kamut products here.

    *Trace amounts of selenium are necessary for cellular function in. It is an ingredient in many multivitamins, other dietary supplements, and infant formula.

    High oleic safflower oil is a healthy alternative to saturated or hydrogenated oils. A naturally occurring liquid vegetable oil, it is not chemically modified. It has a neutral flavor and odor.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Coleman Natural Pulled Pork & Ways To Use Pulled Pork

    For decades we knew Coleman Natural for its high quality, all natural beef.

    Today, the company focuses mostly on all-natural fresh and prepared pork products that are raised 100% Crate Free with no antibiotics ever, no added hormones or growth promotants, and fed an all vegetarian diet.

    Recently we were introduced to their pulled pork, made in the sweet Southern style with a barbecue sauce that includes Budweiser beer.

    It was served to us in tortilla chip cups (photo #2). The snack-or-appetizer is finger-licking good and simple to put on the table.

    Just spoon some pulled pork from the package (room temperature or warmed) into a platter of tortilla cups, and watch them disappear.

    Alternatively, you can serve the pulled pork on nachos, with the addition of cheese and a jalapeño slice.

    Or, you can set up a DIY appetizer stand and let people scoop their own, with their toppings of choice. All you need:

  • Coleman Natural Pulled Pork (photo #2)
  • Tostitos Scoops tortilla chip cups
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced scallions
  • Optional grated jack or cheddar cheese

    We used the pulled in a number of ways, with various garnishes.

    One of the garnishes is a trio of toppings that we call “the fixings”: grated cheddar or jack, scallions and sour cream

  • Baked potato, filled with pulled pork and topped with “the fixings.” Or instead, potato skins? How about a strip of bacon on that?
  • Burritos, quesadillas, tacos, etc., with cilantro, jalapeño, red onion and sour cream.
  • Lettuce wraps, with bibb or romaine.
  • Eggs, in an omelet or crêpe, or as a side with scrambled eggs.
  • Onions and peppers, sautéed.
  • Pasta: filled jumbo shells, cannelloni, etc. topped with a sauce combining barbecue sauce and sour cream; and the other fixings.
  • Pizza, topped with mozzarella and scallions, with an optional ricotta base.
  • Rice and other grains, topped with pulled pork and “the fixings.”
  • Salad, topping greens, radishes and onions with warm pulled pork; or in a taco bowl.
  • Sandwiches, especially on baguette, ciabatta or a good roll (photo #1), with romaine, tomato and optional sliced onion; and on grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Stuffed peppers, topped with “the fixings.”
    And for fun:

  • Cake cone/cup cone ice cream cone (see photo), filled with pulled pork and topped with “the fixings.”

    Pulled pork is a preparation that originated in the South, where barbecued meats are a staple.

    It is made using barbecued pork shoulder (also called Boston butt, Boston shoulder, picnic shoulder or pork butt).

    The shoulder is an inexpensive cut that becomes tender after a long period of cooking over low heat*.

    After emerging from the slow cooker, the meat is shredded (pulled) manually*, then mixed with a barbecue sauce, which can differ by region (see them here).

    The pork is often served on a roll, or on a plate with coleslaw.

    Fusion food: Carnitas, popular in Mexican cuisine, is pulled pork with different accents—beans, cilantro and onions, with guacamole replacing the coleslaw.

    But first came this cultural event:


    Pulled Pork On Bun
    [1] Pulled pork and coleslaw on a hard roll (photo © Zabars).

    Pulled Pork Bites
    [2] Pulled pork “bites” in Tostitos tortilla chip cups. You can find the pulled pork in individual packages, or in the Budweiser BBQ Variety Pack with a half rack of St. Louis-style ribs with BBQ sauce and four beer brats. You’ll find it in a convenient carrying case that looks much like the familiar six-pack of beer (photo © Budweiser BBQ).

    Pulled Pork Salad
    [3] Pulled pork atop a green salad. Here’s the recipe from Fresh Menu Planner.

    Pulled Pork Pizza
    [4] Pulled pork pizza. Here’s the recipe from House Of Yumm (photo © House Of Yumm).

    Europeans were introduced to what we now call barbecued foods, when Spanish explorers first arrived in Guyana around 1499.

    There they saw the Arawak natives building a smoky fire to smoke their game†. The Spanish, who brought pigs with them, used the process to smoked their meat.

    Later, as pork became a main meat for colonials in the Southern U.S., barbecue became a popular way to enjoy it.


    *Long, slow cooking softens the connective tissue in the meat, making it so tender that it almost falls apart before it needs to be pulled.

    †Our word “barbecue” comes from barbacoa, the Spanish adaptation of the word barabicu from the Taino people of Guyana (a related term is jerky, derived from the Quechua [Inca language] term charqui). Barabicu referred to a rack made of wood on which meat is roasted over flames from wood or charcoal. While drying meat is the oldest method of preserving it (e.g., jerky), a smoky fire kept the insects at bay, which further helped in the preservation of the meat.



    FOOD FUN: Tomato Cheesecake & More Sweet Tomato Dessert Recipes

    Tomato Cheesecake
    [1] Tomato cheesecake, a sweet dessert (photos #1, #2 and #3 © Italian Association of Canned Tomatoes Producers).

    Tomato Cheesecake
    [2] A close up of the slice of tomato cheesecake.

    Canned Tomatoes
    [3] Canned tomatoes from Italy (we use San Marzano, as does this recipe).

    Green Tomato Crumble Pie
    [4] Green Tomato Crumble Pie. Here’s the recipe from Healing Tomato (photo © Healing Tomato).

    Tomato Sorbet
    [5] Tomato sorbet. Here’s the recipe from Andrew Zimmern (photo © Andrew Zimmern).

    Tomato Soup Cupcakes
    [6] Tomato soup cupcakes. Here’s the recipe from Country Cleaver (photo © Country Cleaver).


    Now that the crop of local summer tomatoes has faded for most of us, we turn our thoughts to canned tomatoes.

    The “usual suspects” for these bright red conserved tomatoes include chili, pasta sauce, shakshuka or Spanish omelet, and Sloppy Joes (add your favorites to the list).

    But how about tomatoes for dessert? From ice cream and sorbet to cakes and pies, we have a stack of recipes below for sweet tomato desserts.

    We’ll start here with this recipe for a charming Tomato Cheesecake, a visual beauty that will also have your family and friends say “tomato what?” when you present it.

    You can remind them that the tomato is a fruit, and its natural sugar levels can easily be enhanced into sweetened tomato condiments like chili sauce, conserve and jam and that classic American sweet sauce, ketchup.

    Tomato gelato, granita and sorbetto can be widely found in Italy (recipes below), and are included in the recipes below.

    This scrumptious recipe was sent to us by the Italian Association of Canned Tomato Producers, a trade association that represents Europe’s finest canned tomato producers, their fruits grown under the Mediterranean sun of Italy.

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

    In Europe, “biscuit” is the word for a plain cookie in the U.K., like the rectangular biscuits served with tea.

    You can substitute digestive biscuits, English tea biscuits, graham crackers or shortbread for the biscuits referred to below. Just don’t use American biscuit dough: It’s a different item entirely.

    And while the Social Tea Biscuits made by Nabisco are derivative of English tea biscuits, they don’t make a good crust.

    Ready to roll? Cook and bake time is 1 hour 30 minutes.

    Note that the tomato jam is slow-cooked for 10 hours. You can make it the day before.
    For The Biscuit Base

  • 5 ounces biscuits
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cups fresh basil
    For The Filling

  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 pound bufala ricotta (substitute cow’s milk ricotta)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
    For The Topping

  • 6 ounces tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet gelatin
    For The Tomato Jam

  • 35 ounces San Marzano peeled tomatoes
  • 10 ounces sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 20 leaves fresh basil
  • Peel of 1 lemon

    1. MAKE the biscuit base. the butter with the basil. Then crumble the biscuits and add them to the butter and spread the mixture into a cake tin and leave to solidify.

    2. MAKE the filling. Whip the egg yolks with the sugar and a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Whisk the ricotta and add it to the yolks.

    3. PLACE the filling on the base and bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes. Once cooked, leave to cool and proceed with the tomato topping.

    4. MAKE the topping. Finely dice the celery and add the tomato passata; cook for 8 minutes. Strain the liquid from the pot (you can keep it for another purpose) and add the water, sugar, salt and gelatin. Boil for a few minutes and then sieve the topping onto the cheesecake and let it cool.

    5. MAKE the jam. Put all the ingredients into a baking dish, cover with parchment paper and cook at 210°F for at least 10 hours, thus obtaining tomato jam.

    There are easy ways to have tomatoes for dessert. Cherry tomatoes, sweet to begin with, fit right in.

  • fruit salads. Add grape and cherry tomatoes to other berries or fruits of choice.
  • Fruit pies. Toss in some halved cherry tomatoes for a surprise.
  • Make a double of the tomato jam recipe above, and spoon it over ice cream, sorbet or pound cake.
  • It’s easy to make a sweet tomato compote. Just cook down halved cherry tomatoes with a spoonful of sugar, just like making a jam. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar or fruit vinegar, and some optional chopped basil.
    You can also peruse these more involved recipes:

  • Green Tomato Layer Cake
  • Green Tomato Crumble Pie
  • Green Tomato Pie
  • Sweet Tomato Tart (you can serve this with a cheese course)
  • Sweet Tomato Turnovers
  • Tomato, Basil and Ricotta Gelatos
  • Tomato Cheesecake With Basil-Pine Nut Crumble
  • Tomato Sorbet
  • Tomato Soup Cupcakes With Mocha Buttercream
  • Tomato & Salted Plum Granita
  • Tomato Sorbet and Basil Panna Cotta
  • Tomato Soup Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting




    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking Rice From Scratch

    It often surprises us to hear people who are perfectly dependable cooks say that they can’t cook rice.

    We’ve been cooking rice from scratch for many years, and the only time we’ve had a problem is when we didn’t check the time and the bottom rice scorched (which infuses the rest of the rice with a a scorched flavor and aroma).

    So if you want to take another pass at cooking perfect, fluffy white* rice, here are some tips. The process goes fairly quickly.

    Of course, start by reading the package directions.

    Wait: Start by purchasing top-quality rice. Top brands include:

  • Anson Mills
  • Lotus Foods
  • Lundberg Family Farms
    As with any agricultural products, quality differences are based first on rootstock/seeds, then terroir, growing conditions and production techniques.
    1. Measuring The Rice

    Instead of using a measuring cup for uncooked rice, use a scale for accuracy.
    2. Pre-Washing The Uncooked Rice

    Instead of placing water in a sieve or strainer† and running tap water over it, pre-wash by measuring the rice into a clean bowl. Pour cold water onto the uncooked rice, quickly stir 2 – 3 times, then discard the water immediately.

    This step helps to eliminate the and bran that are quickly absorbed by uncooked rice when you wash it.
    3. Draining The Rice

    Use a fine mesh strainer to sieve the water out of the bowl of pre-washed rice. Make sure the unclean water is thoroughly strained out.
    4. Cleansing The Rice

    Very gently and slowly, stir the wet, drained, uncooked rice in the strainer (do not add water). The friction between the rice grains will naturally remove any impurities that are left from the pre-wash.

    The gentle, slow process will prevent rice grains rice from breaking. Broken grains can cause the cooked rice to become very soggy.
    5. Washing The Rice

    Now it’s time to run water through the rice. Then gently stir it a few times.


    Jasmine Rice
    [1] Jasmine rice has long, slender grains and a hint of jasmine fragrance (photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog).

    Cooked Jasmine Rice With Asparagus
    [2] A bowl of fluffy jasmine rice with asparagus (photo © Lundberg Family Farms).

    Short Grain Japanese Rice
    [3] A bowl of cooked short-grain rice, which is the type used in Japanese restaurants. The short grain variety is more glutinous, making it stickier. That means that a forkful of it will hold together, without falling off the fork—or chopsticks (photo © Sushi Inoue | NYC).

    Repeat the cleansing and washing processes (steps 4 and 5) three times, or until the water draining in the washing process becomes transparent. When finished, make sure all the water is thoroughly strained out.

    Washing is the first step toward producing perfect rice. It is more than just running water through the rice and draining.

    This type of washing allows the rice to absorb the water better. Impurities and debris prevent heat from distributing properly, causing unevenly cooked rice and/or overly sticky rice.
    6. Cooking The Rice

    Cook according to package directions. You should end up with beautiful, fluffy rice.

    And don’t turn your back and let the rice scorch!

    This happens because all the water in the pot has been absorbed by the rice before the stated end of the cooking time (maybe the heat was higher than a simmer?).

    Because there is no water left in the pot, the heat scorches, then burns, the rice on the bottom.
    The History of Rice

    The Different Types Of Rice


    *Different types of rice have different cooking requirements.

    †A strainer is a type of sieve typically used to separate a solid from a liquid. The word “sift” derives from sieve.


    © Copyright 2005-2019 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.