The connoisseur knows that not all cheese is the same. Not only do they come in an assortment of varieties, but they are also made in different ways. To this end, one may ask what the differences between natural and processed cheese are.
There are two primary differences between natural and processed cheeses. These differences are whey and emulsifiers. Natural cheeses have the whey pressed out of them while processed cheese does not. Processed cheese also contains emulsifiers, which help keep the fatty and non-fatty ingredients mixed together. This keeps the oils and solids from separating under a broiler or with another source of heat so it remains rich and creamy when melted. Processed cheese is also softer to chew because it has more moisture than natural cheese. In addition to whey and emulsifiers, colors may be added to processed cheese.
Cheese food, cheese product, cheese spread and pasteurized processed cheese are all forms of processed cheese. Processed cheese may also contain additives and preservatives. Cheese spread and processed cheese food have more moisture and less fat than other processed cheese and natural cheese. However, they can contain ingredients the USDA forbids in processed cheese. Still, processed cheeses tend to have a longer shelf life, are less expensive, have consistent quality and flavor and melt well.
On the other hand, natural cheese is offered in the same form it was when it was aged. It comes from removing water from milk with substances such as bacteria, lemon juice or vinegar. The rennet is then mixed with the curd in the coagulation process. The flavor of natural cheese actually develops as it ages. It may have been cut into chunks, shredded or sliced, but the actual form is the same. Furthermore, it is lumpier than processed cheese and separates when it melts.
In the United States, the percentage of natural cheese will be reflected in the product’s name. Processed cheeses must be clearly labeled as such. Sometimes processed cheeses are preferred in certain recipes such as nachos or other treats that require melted cheese. Others prefer natural cheese to prevent ingesting the additives, preservatives and other undesirable ingredients. In either case, all kinds of cheeses can be processed or left in its natural state. Whether one wants natural or processed may depend upon a number of factors including tastes, health concerns or anything else that involves how the cheese is made.
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