Last week I focused on the dairy industry as a whole, giving credit to the farmers. Now days many farmers choose to do value-added things to enhance their profits. One of these cottage industries that developed is the making of cheese. I have seen sessions for making cheese advertised in nearly every farm publication I get.
My granddaughter's 4H group took a tour of some dairies in the northern tier of Pennsylvania. One they visited manufactured and sold cheese. They came home with some delicious varieties of cheese that we enjoyed when we got together for Easter.
My daughter-in-law tried making cheese using her goat milk. She did not jump through all of the hoops to be able to sell it, but the family enjoyed eating it. She found out that making cheese took a lot of milk. She told me she would never complain about the price charged for cheese again. It was labor intensive and used a great deal of raw ingredients.
Americans really love their cheese. Since America is the melting pot for cultures it does not seem strange that each country that immigrated to the U. S. brought along with it their love for native cheeses. Americans have come to love all of them using them to create "authentic" cultural dishes.
One of the European customs that is noticeable on cruises that I have taken is the serving of a fruit and cheese plate for the dessert course. I guess that might be a healthy alternative instead of the calorie-laden desserts in which we indulge.
Cheese is a dairy product. One of the first types of cheeses produced was cottage cheese. It still remains a hit often associated with low-calorie meals. The dairy facts I found said that Americans eat 31 pounds of cheese annually. They determined that 40 percent of that was eaten in restaurants and cafeterias. I would be interested to know how much of the cheese we eat is eaten on pizza. Americans are in love with pizza. The only caution I give here is to be sure that the brand you choose offers "real" cheese.
For a while the "real seal" marked all things that were real dairy products. That was a handy, easily distinguished sign. You could tell at a glance that you were indeed getting something made with a dairy product.
When I began to think how I personally use cheese, the tacos in a bag that have become a family favorite came to mind. A while back I mentioned fixing tacos in a bag. That generated a lot of comments and questions. There is no specific recipe, but you assemble the ingredients that you like in your tacos and put them in a bag to eat them. The combinations are endless.
I usually buy small bags of corn chips. I tell the people to crush them just a bit, then, add meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, sour cream, salsa or whatever they like. Clean up is a breeze. If you use plastic utensils, there is nothing to be washed afterwards.
That made me stop to think about how often I use cheese in my menu. There is cheese in macaroni and cheese, and I often add it to my goulash. I make a cheese, potato and sausage dish that I found in one of the cookbooks I received as a gift when I was a presenter at the state dairy princess seminar. Of course, I use cheese on my pizza. My favorite cheese for this is soft fresh mozzarella, and I make my own crust.
I also make a cheesy potato soup as well as broccoli cheese soup. These are winter staples.
I use cheese in my omelets and sometimes add it to scrambled eggs. I am trying to replicate the cheesy biscuits that they serve in several restaurant chains. I have made a version, but it is not quite right yet.
During the winter holidays we always have cheese and crackers on hand. I buy a variety of cheeses for this. When my husband was doing barn chores he frequently brought people home for a snack after chores. I always had cheese and cold meat in the refrigerator as well as crackers in the pantry for this. We really ate a lot of cheese back then.
We have an Amish cheese factory not far from here. I like to go there for the cheese curds. They are so good. They usually have horseradish and plain. I like them both, and so does the family. Other people must like them as well because sometimes they are gone when we get there. We try to make a trip there before the holidays.
Of course, I have to buy Bond Ost, a type of Swedish cheese, for our celebration as well. I buy the kind with caraway seeds because we all like that. I get that at a market that carries all things Swedish.
It is always time for cheese. Pick your favorite kinds and enjoy a simple supper with fresh garden produce and fruit. Don't forget to put some cheese on your salads, too.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.