Monday, February 20, 2017

CHOWMAGEDDON: Cheese for the Apocalypse!

Are you prepared for the apocalpyse? Will you be scrounging for scraps in an irradiated wasteland or dining on delicious doomsday dinners in the comfort of your fallout shelter?

Chowmageddon is a series of articles where we'll taste test the rations of tomorrow today, so you can make the decision on what to stock for the End of the World...


I'll admit it, I'm a cheese-a-holic. There are very few meals I eat without cheese. Imagining  a world without cheese (because the dairy cows all got irradiated or eaten by zombies) is terrifying to me. So I wanted to see just how long I could enjoy Cheese after civilization collapses...

When it comes to long-lasting cheese, the first thing I think of is Cheez Whiz. This delicious, pasty, processed snack with a consistency similar to peanut butter is a delicious addition for any kitchen. I like to spread it on toast for a quick-and-dirty "grilled cheese" sandwich. And it enhances a good Turkey sub when smeared on the bottom bun (leaving the top free for Miracle Whip).  Cheeze Whiz has SO MANY uses. Of course, it's good for quick nachos, too. Or pouring on canned Ravioli for what I like to call "Bachelor's Lasagna". It has lots of uses. 

In the store, you'll notice that like Velveeta, it's not kept in the refrigerated section. Air tight, room-temperature seems adequate for this American milk product. But just how long can an unopened jar of Cheez Whiz last?

Internet tall tales claim that jars as much as ten years old have survived intact, and edible. And unlike Velveeta, once opened, Cheez Whiz can be sealed up again thanks to a handy-dandy jar it comes in. Of course, like Velveeta, it should really be refrigerated after this. 

Cheez Whiz has what I like to think of as a little cousin--Easy Cheese. Also made by Kraft, Easy Cheese is a cheese-paste in an aerosol can. Unlike Cheez Whiz, it seems to last pretty good outside of a refrigerator after first use. When I was in the USAF, I snuck several cans of Easy Cheese into the field on a training exercise, enhancing my MREs with cheesy awesomeness. There was no refrigerator for miles, and I flourished on my pasteurized diet. 

But is there another way to store cheese? I suppose you could get it in powdered form, like what comes with Mac n Cheese dinners. But then you need water, milk and butter. 

As it turns out, you can buy cheese in a can. And it's not that bad...

For our experiment, we purchased a can of Bega pasteurized cheese--a delicacy from Down Under. I was a little concerned when it arrived, the can marked in English and what I guess is Farsi. I mean, I've never heard of cheese being all that big in the Middle East (no doubt due to the heat). 

About the size of a tin of Tuna, the Bega cheese also looked a little worrisome when opened. Why wasn't it orange? Did those crazy Aussies forget to put in food coloring? Was this really made of milk?

There was only one way to find out... by tasting it. 

Turns out, Bega's tin of cheese, running about $8.95 a can as I write this, is pretty good. It's thicker than Cheez Whiz or Easy Cheese. But not quite as thick as pre-sliced American cheese. It can be cut in slices for bread, or with a modest amount of heat, I imagine it would melt nicely. 

Taste-wise, it's not bad. It lacks the tangy Cheddar bite most cheeses I'm used to have, reminding me of the paste in those cracker sticks and cheese snack packs you can get. 

Cold, I imagine it would be pretty good--a lot like the blocks of Marble Cheese I like to get for a movie night of snacking fun. 

How do they stack up, cost-wise?

Currently, Cheez Whiz runs about $5 a 15 ounce jar around my area. Our local grocer, Kroger, carries a knock-off/generic brand that isn't as tasty, but which also comes in a resealable jar and is a buck or two cheaper. 

Easy Cheese comes in an 8 ounce can, and runs a little over $3, if I remember (I can't look on Amazon, because the prices there are ridiculous). 

And Bega's 7 ounce can cost me $6.25 when I ordered it (apparently, the price fluctuates). 

That's $.38 an ounce for Easy Cheese, $.33 an ounce for Cheez Whiz, and $.89 an ounce for Bega's pale, white cheese. 

Nutritionally, how do they stack up?

There are 6 servings in a can of Bega. Each serving has:

Total Fat 8g
Cholesterol 30mg
Sodium 490mg
Carbs 2g
Sugars 0g

Protein 6g
Calories 100

Cheese whiz has "about 13" servings in a jar. Each serving has:

Total Fat 5g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 410mg
Carbs 5g
Sugars 3g

Protein 3g
Calories 80 

EasyCheese has "about 7" servings:

Total Fat 6g
Cholesterol 10mg
Sodium 420mg
Carbs 2g
Sugars 2g

Protein 4g
Calories 80

Overall, I think Cheez Whiz is the winner--you get far more nutritional value per dollar than with the others. The jar is also reuseable. Once you consumed your hoard of semi-liquid gold, you could store something else. All you could do with the Bega can is seriously cut yourself. 

Of course, you can't eat a slice of Cheeze Whiz, and it doesn't spread as good as Easy Cheese. Bega did get points there. But it lost them because in the end, I expect cheese to be orange, dammit!

Still, if Bega's Aussie tin was all I had, I sure wouldn't be complaining... 

Oh, to hell with it--buy all three! You can never have enough cheese!

Check back in one week for another review of disaster dining...

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