Typically, I avoid anything listed at “low fat”, or “reduced fat” like the plague.
I know there are often nutritional reasons to skip these products, but for me it’s basically that they tend to taste like chemical-laden packing material.
I won’t even mention what the bad ones taste like.
So, when the folks from Cabot Creamery, whom I met at last summer’s International Food Bloggers Conference here in Portland, offered to send me some of their new “50% Less Fat” sharp light cheddar and jalapeno light cheddar, I accepted graciously, but honestly wasn’t all that excited about it.
I pretty much just said okay because 1) It seemed like the polite thing to do, and B) I love to get stuff in the mail.
Okay, I’m joking (mostly) about that. I live in Tillamook Cheese country for Pete’s sake…I love cheese! I mean on a deep, personal, emotional level. If there was a chance, even a small chance, that I could find some guilt-free gooey goodness for my burgers and homemade mac…well, it was worth the risk of a mouthful of bad cheese. Besides, I’d tried Cabot’s full-fat offerings and they were delicious (remember, I’m picky) so at least I knew that they knew what cheese is supposed to taste like.
Still, I wasn’t exactly tingly with excitement about the whole thing.
The two blocks of cheese arrived in an nicely insulated box, and were regulated to the fridge with a “Gotta get to that soon” mental note.
So, a couple of nights ago, at our weekly hautemealz.com chef’s meeting, I busted out the jalapeno cheddar, grabbed a 6-pack of porter, and Terry, Chris, and I got down to the grueling business of “product review.”
Now I’m not going to go all wine-snoot on you with an avalanche of adverbs and metaphors (I’m happily married, I don’t need my food to be sexy, sultry, or provocative)…but suffice it to say that it was good. Very good.
Flavor-wise, it was mild with a moderate about of pepper heat (usually this is the part that’s overdone) with none of that chemical aftertaste so typical of reduced fat products. Chef Terry pointed out that, probably due to having less oil, it had a less greasy mouth-feel that you usually find in cheddar, more reminiscent of a colby or jack.
Okay, so it tasted good…but this is cheese, right? The real test for cheese, the key factor in allowing it precious space in the deli drawer, is how well is melts.
Does it, like most low-fat options, turn into an oily puddle of plastic…or a warm, luscious, decadent blanket of cheesy, bubbly…
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Huh? What happened? I drifted off there for a minute…
Yes, how does it melt? Well, dedicated food scientists that we are, we retired from the boardroom to the lab (aka the dining table to the kitchen), and fired up the griddle to test viscosity, and make one of our favorite snacks…fried cheese.
Cabot “50% Less Fat” Jalapeno Cheddar, shredded and dropped on the hot griddle
Appears to be melting nicely. No puddle of oil.
Crisping to a nice golden brown.
Okay, so the cheese all by it self was really good…the results of the fried cheese test however, were a 12 out of 10! This stuff fried up perfectly, crunchy and toasted on the outside, still soft and pliable in the middle.
Also, as Chef Terry had pointed out earlier…no greasiness at all. Not even that oily residue on the fingers that you typically get from cheddar.
So…that’s our review. Cabot’s “50% Less Fat” Jalapeno Light Cheddar gets 4 Stars from hautemealz.com, and I recommend it as a delicious, healthier alternative to full-fat pepper-jack. I will even go so far to say…(hold on to your shorts)…for most recipes this product would be BETTER than a full-fat option.
Oh, and that fried cheese there…try that on your next sirloin burger…chopped over a salad, or crumbled in soup. As Chef Chris says, it pretty awesome with just a plate, too!
– Chef Perry