There are some foods that get no public respect. I am not saying that they should, only that they don’t. Meanwhile, many Goat-ropin, cedar-chopping Rednecks and other Human-American subspecies often referred to as White Trash secretly can’t get enough of them. Don’t be offended, people. I am referring also to myself as I recall Hanibal Lector in “The Silence of The Lambs” saying to Clarice “you’re not more than a generation away from poor, white trash….” OUCH! The sting of his accuracy was palpable.
In the South, this would include ”foods” such as Velveeta, Miracle Whip and marshmallow fluff. In many households inhabited by older ladies, Jello makes the short list.
So even though most people would not publicly admit to enjoying, or even consuming some of these “foods”, they have remained an intrinsic part of the foodscape on many tables for generations, and as such they cannot be ignored when discussing food culture and traditions.
Therefore, I bring you Whitetrash Wednesdays, wherein we will explore the history, the uses, and the cultlike following some of these foods enjoy, along with some traditional and not so traditional recipes. I hope you enjoy!
White Trash Wednesdays 11/28/2012—Velveeta
I have discussed Velveeta and my feelings about it before, in “The Great Cheese Betrayal”, but today we will examine, since we already know it isn’t really cheese, what exactly it is and how it got here. On Earth, I mean.
Let me start by saying that if you love Velveeta, I am not judging you. You can’t help it. You were conditioned since early childhood that it was the only way to make cheese dip. It may have even been melted and poured over your broccoli to hide the green. If your family was irreparably under its bright orange plastic-y spell, it may have been employed to make grilled-cheese sandwiches.
But we do need to discuss what cheese is, and why Velveeta isn’t it. Because that’s we do here. We learn.
Cheese is made, very generally, by introducing acidic compounds and salt to milk. The milk then curdles, and the curds are pressed to remove the watery whey. The pressed curds may be colored or flavored additionally before being placed into molds and aged or processed in other ways. Generally, very fresh cheese is mild and soft, while older cheeses become harder and more sharp in flavor.
The US Food and Drug Administration classifies Velveeta as “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product”, rather than actual cheese. According to its packaging, Velveeta contains the following: Milk, water, milkfat, whey, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, contains less than 2% of salt, calcium phosphate, lactic acid, sorbic acid as a preservative, sodium alginate, sodium citrate, enzymes, apocarotenal (color), annatto (color), cheese culture….
As you can see, it contains more “stuff” of unpronounceable genus than cheese does. Also, since the whey that is extracted early in the cheese-making process is reincorporated into Velveeta, the texture is much softer and smoother than real cheeses. It is this soft, velvety texture and smooth melt-ability that make the product so appealing to so many people.
It is melted and poured over a wide array of vegetables, and incorporated into many and varied pastas. It is drizzled over baked, fried, and roasted potatoes. The number of dips, spreads and sauces that start with Velveeta is more than the stars. And I have never been to a BBQ or Super Bowl gathering yet that didn’t have at least one crock full of Velveeta and Ro-Tel cheese dip. You know the one. Yeah, you do.
But to make it more interesting, I pimped this recipe out.
Kitchen Sink Dip
- 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage, hot or mild
- 3 pounds Velveeta (1 1/2 bricks)
- 1 14 oz can diced Ro-Tel , not drained
- 1 cup milk
- 1 8 oz can sliced mushrooms
- 1 2.5 oz can sliced black olives
- 1 10 oz box frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
- ¾ cup corn kernels
- 8 green onions, chopped (including green parts)
In a large dutch oven or skillet, cook sausage until browned….Drain fat. Reduce heat to medium-low (or place in crockpot set on low). Add cheese, milk, and Ro-Tel, and cook until mostly melted. Add remaining ingredients and continue to cook until melted. Add more milk, if necessary to reach desired consistency. Serve with corn chips such as Fritos or Tostitos.
Next, I want to introduce you to Velveeta Fudge. Yes. Fudge. Made with Velveeta. This will be new to me too, so let’s see what happens. I reviewed a bunch of recipe variations, and of course came up with one of my own….I’ll review it at the end.
Velveeta Rocky Road Fudge
- 1 pound Velveeta, or 2% Velveeta cheese, cubed
- 1 cup butter
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla
- 1 cup chopped roasted almonds
- 1 cup miniature marshmallows
- 4 (16-ounce) boxes confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
Melt Velveeta and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot (5-6 qrt). Add vanilla and almonds and stir well. Mix in marshmallows, sugar and cocoa, and beat until well mixed. Press into a 13×9 pan that has been lined with buttered waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a few hours until firm. Cut into cubes, and store in a cool place for up to a week.
Okay, there was a big surprise here. The surprise was that it was edible. Decent even. I don’t think they’ll ever be selling it along the Embarcadero or anything, but it is certainly comparable to fudeg made with marshmallow fluff. The texture is nice…Fudgy but firm enough not to get gooey. The flavor is all chocolate and butter. No cheese. No kidding. Give it a try!