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I like to experiment with cheese fondues. I've had good results with the traditional Emmentaler and Gruyère mixture, but the best result I've had was when I added some cheese from the supermarket that was labeled as a "Cheddar Blend". I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it resulted in a fondue that had a wonderful creamy consistency, which very quickly settled into a nice even coating when lifting out the dipped items. It didn't add a huge amount of flavour on its own, but it helped to carry the stronger flavour cheeses, which I've often had trouble getting into a good consistency on their own (they often either wind up too thin [leading to soggy wine-flavoured bread] or a bit grainy from the flour or cornstarch I try to use to thicken it a bit.)

My question, then, is what is it about this 'Blend' cheese that improved the consistency of the fondue? I imagine it's something they add to make it a blend in the first place.

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The magic is from Sodium Citrate

Most mass produced cheese it based on "cheddar blends". Basically large (50 Kg to 1 Mg) blocks of cheese are made in a milk factory. When a consumer product is to be made from it, the cheddar is shredded, flavour and/or culture is added, and then using heat and pressure it is re-packed into consumer sized packages

In some cases Sodium Citrate is added to improve the hold-together of the cheese

Sodium Citrate is an old additive for "cooking cheese", and it can be made at home with baking soda and lemon juice. Gently heat the juice of half a lemon in a microwave safe bowl, then add 1/2 to 1 tsp of baking soda and heat until fully reacted (bubbles cease). Add about a cup of grated cheese (hard or soft) and repeat a gentle heat and stir cycle until it forms a smooth "sauce"

This will remain liquid while warm

If you let this cool you can mold it, or form "slices"

http://modernistcuisine.com/recipes/silky-smooth-macaroni-and-cheese

  • Very interesting; sounds like some more experiments are in order. – Dan Bryant Apr 1 '15 at 0:39
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While I am not certain if any of these ingredients were in the brand of cheese you bought, I figured you may be interested to hear that according to Heston Blumenthal there is two ingredients, in addition to cheese, you need to make a good fondue. One is acid, which will keep the protein from "clumping together", in the recipe I saw he used a bit of white wine and lemon juice. In addition, he added in some corn flour to keep the fondue smooth, I note that you already mentioned this in your question.

Finally, his goal was to make the fondue "stringy", not "creamy" as you ask for, but I figured you might be interested anyway sicne it seems you are doing a bit of experimenting :) I found the entire cooking show where he dealt with cheese here, it was episode 5 of the first season of "How to cook like Heston".

  • Hello! The question was why the processed cheese changed the fondue consistency, not how to make smooth fondue. I know the title was misleading, this happens sometimes when people don't pay much attention to wording of the title. I edited it to make it clear. – rumtscho Apr 2 '15 at 8:39
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    General suggestions on manipulating cheese consistency are also welcome. I do want to preserve some of the stringiness, as I like the texture of the cheese too, so I think it's balancing act with the Sodium Citrate to get something partway between a true fondue and a cheese dip. I'm also hoping it means I can add other delicious cheeses that normally wouldn't melt well. Thankfully my friends are gracious in their willingness to consume fine cheese and wine in the name of science. – Dan Bryant Apr 2 '15 at 14:20

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