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government cheese

my mom's friend gave her one giant block of 'processed American cheese" - the kind government gives to seniors. And I, by default, am the cheese preparer in the family.
I abhor Kraft and most supermarket cheese.
So what can I do with it that makes it taste good? Mac' and cheese? strata? what else?
even better if the ideas are veggie-friendly...

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  1. Is it American cheese or cheese food? If it's the former, it's not as bad as you imagine, at least not for cooking.

    Not too gourmet, but grilled American cheese sandwiches really still hit the spot for me every time. Pan fry with a small amount of butter.

    Also, it melts well, so it can actually make a good fondue. And I bet it'd work well in gougeres.

    If you really need to get rid of it, use it in quiche and omelettes. Grill over apple slices until the cheese browns slightly.

      1. re: adverb

        That's what I was going to say. Cheese sauce, because making a smooth sauce out of real cheese is not easy (at least for me). Go old-school and over-cook some broccoli, pour cheese sauce over it, and call it healthy ;-)

      2. When I was a kid, an elderly family friend would share it with us--the block he got was more than he could eat. Whenever we got it, we had corn chowder and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.
        That cheese made great sandwiches. I loved getting it, it was a treat.

        1. If you don't like its taste, it might be tough to hide it, but there are many recipes that call for it.

          You can add it to Seven Layer Dip.

          Top apple pie, or toast a bagel topped w/ cheese and layer on apple slices.

          You could do a spaghetti pie... Cook pasta; mix pasta w/ egg and parmesan and place in a greased baking dish, then cover w/ your favorite pasta sauce and top with american and mozzarella cheese; allow to bake, warm through, bubbly, and browned.

          Corn Cheese Chowder http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Corn-Che...
          or Potato Soup (w/o ham) http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Golden-P...

          Fondues, Souffles, Scones/Biscuits, Muffins, Twice Baked Potatoes, Welsh Rarebit, Cheese Grits, Quiche, Frittata

          Hope any of that spurs you on...

          1. Nachos. Or maybe you could try to make pimento cheese with it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sweetie

              my mom's variation of mac and cheese is very good, and we normally use Velveeta.

              make a sauce of sauteed finely chopped celery, onion, carrot, and garlic, and a can of diced tomatoes. season with S&P, thyme, basil and oregano and simmer it a half hour or so. Add a good amount of cheese to it to get a rosee-like sauce,

              toss this with 1lb. cooked elbow macaroni noodles, and some more cheese within and on top. We've added ground beef, Italian sausage, cooked and sliced breakfast sausage... It's always good. Bake about 15 minutes, if still warm, at 375.

              1. re: C70

                c70...that avatar of yours made me smile!

                1. re: C70

                  Lots of great info about mac 'n' cheese (and recipes to use your cheese here):

              2. This is one of those good government programs that uses up surplus in milk production, to control oscillation in drinking-milk prices. The most effiicient way to preserve the surplus is to make it into un-aged processed emulsified bricks. Storable.

                So, as other posters have said, use it for what it's best for: exploit it's meltability and ability to smoothly incorporate in sauces.

                To "kick it up" in flavor, ie to add some taste of real, aged cheese, try this:

                Get some sufu, aka furu, aka fermented tofu. It comes in ca. 16 oz glass jars at the Asian stores. It's ripe-ripe-ripe. Cubes packed in brine (also varieties that are oil/chile packed, etc) It looks gross and scary to the first-time user. Consensus among sufu-eaters is that the older and grosser, the better. Usually around 1.5 - 2 bucks a jar. Smash it and incorporate it into your macNcheese sauce. It will raise the sauce from bland, and elevate it to one tasting like it was made from mature cheeses.

                sufu / furu pictured here. Many brands are available. Sorry I have no better pic.

                6 Replies
                1. re: FoodFuser

                  You explained it better than I could... thanks! This is REAL cheese...

                  In my childhood, my mother volunteered in a Soup Kitchen, so I know all about "gobernment cheese". It's a mild cheese, but firm. WAY better than Kraft Singles or Velveta. It is EXCELLENT for any melting cheese duities. As others have noted, Great for Alton's Mac N Cheese recipe, Grilled Cheese, Nachos, Any sort of Casserole, any sort of prep that calls for Shredded Cheese.


                  1. re: Dommy

                    I kind of miss this stuff! I remember it as being really yummy, I was always happy when our family friend shared it with us.

                  2. re: FoodFuser

                    So right, FoodFuser! Before Food Stamps, the Government had a commodities program for those on public assistance. They got real food - butter, cheese, flour, etc. - each month. The big food companies lobbied hard to allow people to spend public assistance money in grocery stores instead so they could buy - surprise! - processed foods made by big food companies.
                    This cheese is the one used in good old classic American Macaroni and Cheese. Soul Food Mac Cheese made it a heavenly dish. Your mom bought a similar product at the grocery. Back to Basics cheese. School lunch programs got commodity cheese - for better and sometimes worse. Actually, school lunch programs still get commodities - cheese and other products.
                    I just disagree with FoodFuser that a classic needs "kicking up." Maybe we should respect our authentic foods as we do those of other cuisines. Learn to make the real thing well.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Oh, yeah: gov't cheese makes the BEST baked mac'n'cheese. Boil mac, toss with butter. Shred cheese, beat a couple of eggs w/evap milk, salt, cayenne, black pepper, worcestershire, a little dry mustard. Mix shredded cheese w/egg, pour over mac & put into a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle over a little more grated cheese. Bake until bubbly & browned. Eat with fried chicken, fried fish, or baked turkey wings.

                    2. re: FoodFuser

                      Hey, Food Fuser (Koga-san?) thanks for this really cool post on Funyu.
                      I am a huge fan of it, and normally consume the bottled product from mainland China. Cheap, but there is a big difference in brands. This is similar to a native Okinawan product called Tofu-yoh, which is less "ripe" than the Chinese varieties, and it got me wondering that perhaps the Japanese-Americans you mentioned who liked it were originally Okinawan. In any case, it is very ripe French stinky cheese flavor PLUS a whole boatload of salt, but if enjoyed carefully, it is quite a great thing with hot white rice and maybe a little Ohba (shiso) julienned into the rice. The photo of the old SF-made Quong Hop bottle is precious, for sure, but these days it would be just too expensive for them to make for the tiny market for this in the US.
                      Now Nattoh will naturally come next in this sort of conversation, and that will a bit of raw egg over hot rice is sublime...

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Trigeler, your enthusiasm for fermented tofu has spurred me to start a thread on sufu etc. that I've been meaning to get around to for a while. Your perspective on tofu-yu could help us out at: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/403303

                        (Tokoro de... Kaga-san shirimasen.)

                    3. You asked "what can I do with it that makes it taste good"? How does it taste as is?

                      1. Grilled Cheese definitely, I also like it melted in scrambled eggs.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: KeriT

                          Melt it slowly with some heavy cream and add a drained can of Ro-Tel. get out the best tortilla chips and avocado chunks and dip in!

                          1. re: Candy

                            rotary telephone, rolling television, rope telemeter, Roman-Telegu, ...on the tip of my tongue, but just can't place it!?

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Ro-tel is a brand of canned chopped tomatoes which has jalapenos already chopped up in it -- you probably have something similar down there. It's very handy for adding to chili, dips, etc., and quite spicy.

                              1. re: Chowpatty

                                Handy for sure.

                                It is perhaps safe to assume that there is a sales spike for Rotel just prior to Superbowl Sunday, along with canned chili, canned refried beans, and processed cheese, to zap together and dip with various corn chips.

                                Rotel has progressed from it's humble but independent beginnings to cuddle under the benevolent wing of Con-Agra. http://www.texmex.net/Rotel/main.htm

                                1. re: Chowpatty

                                  Sorry Chowpatty, the ONLY place I have ever found Rot-tel is at Big Lots or the Grocery Outlet. Not a regular food item at the grocery stores here in East Bay/Central CA. The canned tomato brand here is Hunts,no where close to the taste of the beloved Ro-tel. (I also pickup Allen's collard greens and black eyed peas)

                                  I love my Southern Cookbook collection which has come from all sorts of places; used book stores, garage sales and such. Most of the recipes within are graced by someone's Mo Mo's and Me Maw's that are absolutely precious.Been handed down and down but without fail the recipes will call for the Ro-tel tomatoes!!! ARGHH! When I am able to find them I stock up, they are really good for stews and casseroles and those special recipes. They do have a a unique flavor and Yes absolutely good with a cheese for a dip.
                                  And I am looking in one of them and there are quite a few recipes using a good amount of cheese "Crabmeat Au Gratin or Hot Crab Dip, or Welsh Rarebit.

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    My local Safeway and Albertson's, here in San Francisco, all carry Ro-Tel diced tomatoes.

                                    1. re: Nancy Berry

                                      Really! I have searched for them before and was unsuccessful, and was shocked to find them at the stores I mentioned. Good to know. Thanks, I'll check my local Safeway store, I know Albertsons does not, but maybe enough people at the Safeway asked and they brought them in.
                                      Love them, there is no replacement in using them.

                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        I just looked for Ro-Tel at my local Safeway on Mission and 30th in San Francisco and found them right in the diced tomato section. You should contact Safeway on www.safeway.com and ask where they are available near you. You can also ask the manager of your local Safeway to order them for his store.

                                        1. re: Nancy Berry

                                          In my local supermarket (Boston area) Rotel is stocked in the Mexican food area, not the canned tomatoe area. So, maybe look there.

                                    2. re: chef chicklet

                                      My (Southern) roommate in college loved Ro-tel, and was so upset that she couldn't find it in the northeast. I (Californian) had never heard of it, and she was shocked.

                                      1. re: chef chicklet


                                        chef chicklet,

                                        I don't know of a store around here that doesn't have Ro*tel, except Big Lots of which it comes and goes quickly.

                                        In some stores they have their $1 isle that you get 2 or 3 cans for a $1.

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            If you click on my link it is in my profile. Southern Indiana.

                                      2. re: Chowpatty

                                        Ro-tel--Fascinating! Thank you. Never heard of the stuff! And we don't have anything similar here.

                                        1. re: Chowpatty

                                          ro-tel is commonly available in texas, sometimes neighboring states, not so much elsewhere & certainly not in my neck of the big woods.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            It is readily available here in Virginia. My Mom discovered it when my Dad was in the Navy and they were stationed in Corpus Christi and when I was a child (in the 70's) she would buy it by the case from the manufacturer in Texas.

                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                              @soupkitten - Uh, yes it is. Lunds, Byerly's Cub and Rainbow all carry Ro-Tel. I had two cans in my pantry last Saturday and placed them both in the bag for Mail Carrier Foodshelf day but then I snatched one back at the last second.

                                    3. Going with the melty theme, try Welsh rarebit - sounds so gourmet! Add beer, pepper and pour onto toast.

                                      1. -----

                                        zorgclyde wrote : "" I abhor Kraft and most supermarket cheese. ""

                                        To some degree, I am with you and in some not. Yes, their low end product cheeses like the Singles, Cheez Whiz, and Velveeta can be disappointing, but the more Deluxe cheeses are really good, IMHO. My granny calls them "milked down cheeses" as they are less firmer as a cheese and can normally be repeated at home with the Deluxe cheeses by adding in milk.

                                        Government cheese fortunately has a certain criteria, and generally has more milk solids thus better flavor.

                                        Beyond that, you got me craving grilled cheese sandwiches and not even so much as a slice is around here at the moment. Better runaway from home and do some shopping. ;-)

                                        1. thanks for all these replies!
                                          you guys were right, it is super-meltable. in fact this cheese is downright creamy when melted. the flavor isn't exactly complex by itself.
                                          Tonight I tried the Alton Brown's stove mac'n cheese mixed with sharp cheddar and extra hot sauce. Pretty good that way.
                                          We also made an omelet - it makes excellet omelet cheese.

                                          I will try the Ro-tel/nacho idea next.
                                          There's soooo much cheese it's unbelievable. Even after a whole recipe of AB's mac n cheese and a 4-egg omelet, we still have more than 80% left.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: zorgclyde

                                            My maternal grandparents raised foster children many years ago. They got government cheese, and my grandmother made all sorts of casseroles, sandwiches, and dips with it. (She was astoundingly thrifty.) My grandad asked for that Ro-tel dip served with Fritos long after the kids were gone and there was no more government cheese. He said it wasn't quite as good with Velveeta, but he ate it nonetheless, thankfully not too often. It's pretty heinous stuff, but if you're trying to keep your weight up, I suppose it has a place in small amounts. Grandma also made it with cooked ground beef or sausage, oh dear.

                                            1. re: zorgclyde

                                              A very little bit of parmesan will also give a lot more flavor to a mild cheese sauce.

                                            2. I'm glad you tried the stuff and changed your mind. I may be wrong, but I recall the stuff as being somewaht like a cheddar. Would love to have a giant block.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                Yes, like a super mild cheddar... Glad you enjoyed Clyde! :D


                                                1. re: Dommy

                                                  I'm not exactly sure what sort of cheese you all are talking about, but if it's a 25-pound block, you can't eat that in a couple of weeks. Could it be frozen in 6 to 8-ounce chunks, perhaps wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, then in a freezer bag? Does it get grainy? Maybe wrap in plastic wrap and/or foil and then coat in melted parafin wax, and save in a freezer bag or use a vacuum sealer.

                                                  Any thoughts?

                                                  1. re: nemo


                                                    nemo- You made me think!

                                                    It has been some years but the Uncle Sam (govt.) Cheese I recall came in a 5 (may be 10) pound brick almost like Velveta but slightly larger and a much dryer American cheese. Closest store type usually are of a bulk staggered sliced Deluxe American Cheese, that some stores will tray up and sell in various refrigerated departments. (meat, deli, and-or the dairy case.)

                                                    Geez, the memories of the best butter I ever consumed came from those 1 pound wax wrapped bricks. Today I do not think are exactly the same anymore, unless my taste buds got warped... :-p

                                                    1. re: nemo

                                                      I do remember trying to freeze it and having mixed results. It's best used in cooking after its frozen. However, if you are very careful in re-wrapping the cheese after cutting off a portion with clean utensils, it will last for quite a while in the refrigerator. If you have a box, cover the cut end with a generous amount of aluminum foil, and replace in the box each time. Leave the plastic coated wrap on it as well.

                                                2. When the OP told us that it was "processed American Cheese", I didn't realize what a Bracketing phrase that was. It turns out that processed cheeses have strict legal FDA definitions, and thus the ranges of ingredients (and resultant texture) are clearly delimited.

                                                  Mr. Kraft made a fortune selling "processed cheese" to the US military during WWI, coincident with his original patenting of the process of "processed cheese". Basically: take some real cheeses, that are age-able, then grind them, melt them with some milkfat. Aging (perceived as stinkiness) is arrested. Then, The Magic Touch that made the fortune: add some sodium phosphate, sodium citrate, potassium phosphate, tartrate, or citrate, These are called "emulsifying salts", and serve to change the cheese protein strands into a form that can mix both with water and with fat. Thus, they can go into an emulsification that suspends all the cheese components. Thus, they melt without breaking into casein and grease (as in atop a burger), and can blend easily into a wet sauce, (such as a macNcheese sauce). Cheese consumption per capita has jumped from 3 pounds a year to 30 pounds since Kraft's discovery.

                                                  The more moisture and protein concentrates that the manufacturers add, the more the product steps down the ladder of the FDA definitions: process cheese (ie OP's Gubmit cheese) then process cheese food, then process cheese food spread. All three of these designations are clearly printed somewhere on the package, distinct from the nutrition info label.

                                                  So, goverment cheese is one rung below grocery-store cheddar, but it's on the top rung of the processed cheeses.

                                                  Some fun links for those who want to explore this issue perhaps past the mental point of holding the emulsion:

                                                  A food industry perspective overview:

                                                  3 wikis:

                                                  A page from Kraft, giving percent of natural cheese in each type:

                                                  Travel down the rungs of the ladder with Kraft, from the grocery-store holy grail of Cracker
                                                  Barrel cheddar, down to Cheese Whiz. Compare the ingredients.

                                                  Hardcore only: the FDA regs:
                                                  To find pertinent section, use ctrl F for "Sec. 133.169 Pasteurized process cheese."

                                                  Other info on shredded cheese ingredients in this CH thread:

                                                  Now I'm gonna slink away and nibble on a few slices from my chunk of Stinky Stilton. Sunday night Stilton braces me for that weekday can of Easy-Cheese at the office.

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: FoodFuser

                                                    Thanks for all that work! Now we know why that cheese melts so well.
                                                    My husband's grandmother had wonderful recipes that she passed on to me. Of course, I had to "improve" on them by using "real" cheese because that "stuff" that she had been using certainly wasn't up to our standards. I never could figure out why the cheese got oily and separated. I finally swallowed my pride and followed her directions. Everything worked again and the recipes were foolproof.
                                                    I'm going to go hit the Maytag Blue but I may dig out some of those old recipes again.

                                                    1. re: FoodFuser

                                                      Indeed an impressive report! Fascinating about the manufacturing process.

                                                      1. re: FoodFuser

                                                        Are you saying that "Government Cheese" is processed (and therefore a rung below grocery store cheddar)? I thought GC was basically a bulk cheddar.

                                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                          The gov't cheese I used to get from my now-departed Ma Lou was definitely processed. It melted beautifully...

                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            Here's an FDA contractor spec sheet for processed cheese used in commodiity programs (seniors, school lunches, etc.) in pdf. It mentions that cheddars can be used, but are not mandated.

                                                            I've no idea about the availability of such cheese in Colombia, to give you a taste. Look for something labeled "American cheese". Here in the US, we can't just purchase a 5 lb loaf of government cheese; it has to flow thru the "charitable" system from FDA/USDA.

                                                            Cheese sold in loafs and sliced at the deli section in US grocery stores are essentially the same product. I checked my deli today, and the legal definition was "pasteruzied process american cheese".

                                                            For mail order, thru Amazon, the closest thing would be this product, Kraft's top level sliced american cheese:
                                                            Here's Kraft's product/ingredient info for it:

                                                            It would be fun to know if you can find some in your home city.

                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                              Sam, if you know somebody with the US Embassy, they probably have it in their Commissary.

                                                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                FF, what fun. I'll look around a bit more as to what is available here. We have deli sections where people pay oodles of $ for good cheese and large sections in the supermarkets that have different local cheeses. Most common are fairly raw "quesos campesinos."

                                                                What I have in my ref: a huge chunk of Parm-Reg from a dear friend now working in northern Italy, a large chunk of Pecorino brought back by another colleague from Italy, a kilo of Oaxaca cheese I brought back from Mexico, our local commercial "mozarella", smoked cheese from Nicaragua, some very fresh cheese I bought near Christmas in the Lago de la Cocha area in southern Colombia and that has since been "curing" in wax paper in the ref.

                                                                I never, ever toss out cheese. They stay in different sections of the ref until used, even if it takes a few years.

                                                                Finally, I do remember as an undergrad eating some of that "Gov Cheese". It was good because we put it in dishes that made sense; and we appreciated it .

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  "A few years"?? Wow. Anything that has lived in my frig for a few years usually has to get a job and move into its own place.

                                                                  1. re: tokyorosa

                                                                    Half of the stuff in my big, clean, pro ref kept at a slightly lower than normal temp has had to come from far, far, away--with me or someone else hand carrying it. I pay attention to packing, and don't and can't waste anything. Stuff gets cycled through with adequate care given to each; but there are definitely things older than my 3 1/2 year old daughter. And I am treasuring every moment with her before she goes off to uni, job, her own place.

                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka


                                                                      Did you ever get hold of some this cheese?

                                                                  2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    Sam, and all others outside USA, I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner... If you go to the closest McDonald's and cut a deal to buy some of their sliced cheese for their burgers, it will be really close to the guvmnt cheese under discussion. This source may well be less expensive than other distribution channels.

                                                                    I seem to remember a politically motivated bombing of a McDonald's in Cali Columbia back in the 1990's. Hopefully the cheese will be of sufficient quality that no such retaliation is necessary.

                                                              2. re: FoodFuser

                                                                ""Aging (perceived as stinkiness) is arrested.""


                                                                Some years back we had a pizza joint that the minute you walked in the door it had a smell that "OOOPHH!", that took my wind. (I will spare everyone the details of the scent)

                                                                Anyway their pizzas were dynamite but very pricey.

                                                              3. Joy of Cooking has a simple and delicious cheese souffle recipe....and I like the perversity of making a souffle with government cheese.

                                                                1. My grandparents used to get big blocks of this cheese and 3 for $1 baguettes at the grocery. Slice the baguettes and the cheese thinly, pop a slice of cheese on a slice of bread, bake it slow and long until you've made a cheese cracker. Delicious, crunchy, and no need for refrigeration. Keeps forever. Perfect emergency kit food.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: sasha1

                                                                    It's funny I need help along the same line...
                                                                    I don't have the block cheese, but instead an over abundance of cheese sauce from the can. You know the bright yellow-orange sauce, any ideas for it? I've already made cheesy potato soup.

                                                                    1. re: tknopf

                                                                      Donate it to your local high school.....concession stands at sporting events sell tons of canned nacho cheese slathered on everything from hot dogs to burgers to fries to chili/cheese fritos to tortilla chips.

                                                                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                        i think they use the infamous "pump cheese," (used at the sports arena too) though, and can't hook up a grocery store canned cheese to that system

                                                                  2. I grew up getting this cheese from the people that worked for my dad. My mom made enchiladas from it...yowz~ They were good!