Make Your Own American Cheese, Inspired by Pinterest

One of the my favorite things about Pinterest is all the crazy stuff you find on it.  I like that you don't have to go out of your way to look for it, it's just always there.  But this is also one of the things I don't like about Pinterest.  Because I tend to be drawn to the most outrageous things, like making cookie dough dip from garbanzo beans or homemade American/Government cheese.  I don't even like American cheese!  I haven't had the stuff in years.  And I'm not exaggerating either.  

When I first came across the pin, the descriptor read "How to make your own Velveeta without all the gross chemicals."  Hmmm?  Can that actually be done? I was immediately intrigued.

It turns out you can make American cheese at home!  It's a combination of only seven ingredients and one of them is water.  I've already done the investigating of where to buy all of the supplies, which will save you a lot of wasted gas, energy and unladylike words.  Not that the ingredients are obscure, but when you prefer cheese free of rbst, shopping gets a little more tricky.

The most unusual ingredient in this recipe is whole milk powder.  Who the heck keeps that stuff around?!  I knew I wouldn't find this at Trader Joe's, so I went to Target.  It turns out 12.6 ounces of powdered whole milk costs about $5.  I only needed a tablespoon and knew I probably wouldn't use the rest so this was a tough decision for me.  But I was stuck on the recipe, so I bought it.  It also requires a 5x4 inch "disposable aluminum loaf pan," which I bought at Target too along with a small package of required gelatin (you can use the leftover stuff for homemade marshmallows!).  

The base ingredient is Colby cheese.  I assumed I would get it from Trader Joe's but they didn't have it.  I know, right?  I too thought they carried all manner of cheeses, but they only had Colby Jack.  So I went to Safeway.  They only carried an extra small size, which would have required 2, or an extra large size that we wouldn't finish eating.  Both cost more than I wanted to spend. Plus none of them claimed to be free of rsbt.  At this point I realized I was going to be spending about $20 to make government cheese.  Discouragement settled in and I nixed the project.

That night I wrote to my editor-  "American cheese is not happening."  But then I had an epiphany - "Yes, it's true I don't like this stuff, but I think E (my five year old son) would."  And then another epiphany - "He's never even had American cheese!  I'm making the cheese!"

The next morning I confidently went to Sprouts.  And guess what?  They carry plain Colby Longhorn cheese!  And organic milk!  Done.  For about $5.  Hooray!  Fifteen dollars instead of twenty.  That's the savings of a whole fancy coffee.  

Once you have the ingredients, the recipe is a cinch to make.  There are minimal dishes involved and you get to pull out the dusty ol food processor.  The biggest downside is waiting 3 hours for the stuff to set.

While the ingredients are cleaner, the texture remains the same.  I guess the texture is the reason why some people go bananas for it, but for me it's a turn off.  Especially when I was washing the remaining stuff from the food processor and it was flaking off in large gooey clumps.  I was hoping that making it from scratch would change my opinion of it, but it didn't.  I just don't like it.  But I shared some with a friend whose husband eats it as a snack and got this response, "He said yours was the perfect texture but had more flavor."  So I guess it depends on whether you like it to begin with.  

I'm now going to provide you the recipe and it's a good thing because it's a total hassle to find.  The original Pinterest post takes you back to one place, which takes you back to another.  That's 3 clicks!  Three clicks equals too many clicks.  When you finally reach the final website destination, America's Test Kitchen, you are forced to register to access the recipe!  It's free, but I didn't care for that. I guess that was my first sign.  I should have put an end to the ridiculousness right there.  Next week I'm making up for it.  I'm gonna make a recipe I know I will want to eat.  Also, let me know if you want to borrow a tablespoon of whole milk powder.  I have PLENTY.

Homemade American Cheese adapted from America's Test Kitchen
"Your favorite yellow, salty, ultra-meltable cheese--now in customizable form."  

1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
12 ounces Colby cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon whole milk powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter (I didn't mention these in my post because I already had them at home.  If you don't have cream of tarter, I know for sure that Sprouts carries it.)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

1.  Line 5x4 inch disposable aluminum loaf with plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over sides.  (I already had plastic wrap too.  If you don't, Target.)
2. Place water in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over top, and let mixture sit for 5 minutes.  Pulse cheese, milk powder, salt, and cream of tartar in food processor until combined, about 3 pulses.
3. Meanwhile, bring milk to boil in a saucepan.  Off heat, stir in softened gelatin until dissolved, and transfer mixture to 1-cup liquid measuring cup.  With processor running, slowly add hot milk mixture to cheese mixture until smooth, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed.
4. Immediately transfer cheese mixture to prepared pan, pressing to compact.  Wrap tightly and chill at least 3 hours, or overnight. 


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