I met a friend of a friend who had worked in a cheese factory one summer for a college internship. She mentioned that after working there and seeing how cheese and ‘cheese products’ were made, she now would never eat any cheese with a word after the name ‘cheese’. She went on to explain, “Look at the label, and if there is a word after the word ‘cheese’, don’t eat it.”
Examples are ‘cheese product’, ‘cheese spread’. I have no idea what her philosophy about food was, all I know is she had watched the stuff being made, and her advice was not to eat it, so that’s enough for me.
I looked at a package of sliced American cheese, commonly used on sandwiches. On the package it states “pasteurized prepared cheese product”, and the ingredients are as follows: Milk, Whey, Milkfat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid As A Preservative, Apocarotenal (Color), Annatto (Color), Enzymes, Vitamin D3, Cheese Culture.
The ingredients of a block of mozzerella cheese are: pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes.
I’ve made mozzarella cheese before, although it’s not something I do on a regular basis. The enzymes and cheese culture are what you must have to turn milk into cheese. Rennet is a complex of enzymes, and if you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie series, they had to butcher a calf to get rennet (from the calf’s stomach) in order to make cheese. We bought ours at our local health food store, and there are vegetarian varieties of it.
The same principle applies to other food products too, not just cheese. Tsh from Simple Mom wrote an excellent post recently about the chocolate industry, which briefly touches on this food labeling issue. She points out that certain US chocolates must be labeled as ‘chocolate candy’ when being sold in other countries, because US chocolate contains so many other additional ingredients.
The majority of labels on natural peanut butters that you don’t have to stir read ‘peanut butter spread’, not ‘peanut butter’. The ingredients listed include: Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Palm Oil, Salt, Molasses.
The majority of these peanut butter spreads are being marketed as ‘all natural’ and ‘healthy’, so it may come as a surprise to someone who believes they’re making a healthy choice, that sugar is the number two ingredient, followed up by molasses.
I look for peanut butter that has one ingredient: peanuts (or possibly peanuts and salt).
The problem with these natural peanut butters is that the oil separates, and you have to stir it. I don’t mind the stirring, but it’s difficult to stir an entire full jar of peanut butter, and invariably, the bottom third of the jar is dry and crumbly. I discovered that by scooping a new jar of peanut butter into a larger wide mouthed canning jar,
and then using an immersion blender, you can easily blend up the entire jar once,
keep it in the refrigerator, and never have to stir it again. The peanut butter keeps its spreadable texture, and the oil doesn’t separate.