Cheese is an essential component of classic grilled cheese, and the queso makes it melty and delicious. American cheese, whether bright orange or pristine white, sold in a huge block or individually wrapped in plastic, is a time-honored component of many American recipes and diets. But did you know American Cheese is actually a combination of different kinds of cheeses?
“American cheese” is a blend of cheddar, Colby, washed curd, and granular cheeses. Federal law requires it to be labeled “American process cheese” if it contains more than one cheese or “process American cheese food” if it contains at least 51% cheese but other specific dairy ingredients.
The Canadian-American Cheese
You might be surprised to learn that American cheese isn’t all that American, despite its name. According to the Michigan Dairy Review, the story of this cheese begins in 1911 in Switzerland, when Walter Gerber and Fritz Stettler combined local Emmental with the preservative sodium citrate to produce cheese with a longer shelf life for export. The outcome was smooth, and the experiment was a success.
According to the outlet, it took five years for the process to be patented by Canadian-born James Lewis Kraft, albeit not in Switzerland, but in the United States. Kraft created his version of the Swiss product to extend the shelf life of cheddar, not Emmental.
In his patent claim, he stated that he intended to convert cheddar into a shelf-stable product that could be stored without going bad while retaining the cheese’s characteristic flavors.
Norman Kraft eventually patented a box lined with metal foil into which liquid cheese could be poured and then sliced into portioned squares via Michigan Dairy Review. According to Kraft’s senior director of brand building Anne Field, the resulting product was a convenient and portable way to bring cheese to millions of Americans, including troops stationed overseas during World War II. (Source: Mashed)
The Story of the Original American Cheese
The first American cheeses, whether the original Swiss product or Kraft’s first patented cheese, lacked what appears to be an essential component of the product as we know it today: the wrapper. According to Thrillist, Norman Kraft did not patent the individually wrapped single-serving American cheese slice until 1944.
According to The New York Times, by then, Kraft’s head of research, Norman, was looking for a way to make his brother’s processed cheese product even more convenient for the home consumer. In 1935, he started working on a solution, experimenting with selling the cheese pre-sliced rather than in block or loaf form. The first Kraft De Luxe Process Slices, a stack of eight slices that could be peeled off as needed, was introduced in 1950.
According to the outlet, Arnold Nawrocki would have to wait a few more years before developing the final essential component of this convenience food: the individual wrapper. This 1956 invention marked the beginning of the individually wrapped Kraft Singles we know and love today. (Source: Mashed)
Is Velveeta Categorized as American Cheese?
Velveeta is not exactly American cheese but comes quite close. It is a mixture of old cheeses, which are processed with emulsifiers that, when processed together, give it its perfect meltiness. The brand’s name comes from its velvety texture when melted. (Source: Taste of Home)