Happy National Cheese Day!

The cheese named for this country is not everybody’s favorite.

Its biggest detractors don’t even count it as a “real” cheese!

But there are also plenty of American cheese fans; they slap a slice or two onto their burgers or inside their grilled cheese sandwiches.

And some of those fans aren’t even from America, which is fine because the guy who developed American cheese wasn’t originally from America either.

His name was James Kraft, and he grew up on a farm in Ontario before emigrating to the US in the early 20th Century.

Kraft got into the cheese business when he moved to Chicago, and there he started trying to solve the age-old problem of making cheese last longer.

He developed a technique similar to one being used in Switzerland (yes, American cheese has roots in Europe, too).

It was sort of like a cheese remix: he would take bits of extra cheddar and re-pasteurize them, then add some other ingredients so that it was creamy, lasted an extra long time, and melted just right.

Kraft started selling his cheese in metal tins, which were a hit and made his name world famous.

But American process cheese, as it was called, became even more popular, and versatile, when Norman Kraft, James’s brother, figured out how they could cut their creation into slices and sell it that way.

Technically, American cheese is still cheese, or at least it is as long as 51 percent of the stuff is actual cheese.

Less than that and you might have what’s known as process cheese food, like Velveeta.

There is also something called “American slices.”

They look like cheese and they’re used the way American cheese slices are used, but they aren’t officially cheese because they’re made from milk protein and vegetable oils.

Or, at best, you could say they’re… nacho cheese.

A little more cheese knowledge for today: Northern Sweden includes a region known as the Kingdom of Cheese.

And to drive the point home, you can visit two 23 feet tall cheese slicers sticking out of the ground.

What Is American Cheese, Anyway? (Serious Eats)

A Brief History of “American Cheese,” from Colonial Cheddar to Kraft Singles (Mental Floss)

World’s Largest Cheese Slicer (Atlas Obscura)

It would be Gouda if you could back our show on Patreon

Photo by Sandy Sarsfield via Flickr/Creative Commons