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I have been given the honors of making appetizers for the family Christmas dinner. One of the traditional recipe calls for melted Velveeta, to go over a cooked sausage "pate" on top of a small piece of rye bread. To not hurt any feelings I'm going to make some of these with the traditional Velveeta, but for others I would like to replace the Velveeta with some other cheese. I'm assuming I'll have to make a thick bechamel sauce. I need help with what cheese, or up to 3 cheeses, I should melt down. Any suggestions would be considered.

FWIW the sausage is usually fairly mild, not much spicier then the rye bread it is on.

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    There's a lot of answers already, but no one has clarified why you don't want to use Velveeta. What is it that you want to avoid or what do you want that the packaged cheese doesn't provide? There are many options depending on your goals. – JPhi1618 Dec 13 '17 at 21:23
  • Most complaints I've heard are either around the flavor, or the waxy texture melted Velveeta takes on once it's been at room temperature. – RunThor Dec 13 '17 at 21:34
  • I want something that would improve the overall flavor of the appetizer. Something with some funk/earthy might play well with the ray bread, which is usually more flavorful then the sausage. Or something with some spice could be fun to. Getting a cheese to melt and spoon onto the toast & sausage is the only physical requirement. I was thinking a hard cheese with bight/funk miked with another for smothness. – RunThor Dec 13 '17 at 21:45
  • Any meltable cheese would work IMO. – barbecue Dec 14 '17 at 1:02
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    I should think the biggest complaint about Velveeta is that it's not cheese. – Shufflepants Dec 14 '17 at 14:51
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If you want the smoothness of melted processed cheese, but not the extra trouble of making your own, you can use processed cheese in other flavors such as Swiss, sharp cheddar, extra sharp cheddar, and pepper jack. (Just to name a few.)

Another option is canned or jarred process cheeses in various flavors.

Lastly, and probably what I would use, are different varieties of very young, soft cheeses. They tend to melt well and if young enough, don't need any additional ingredients.

As an example, I make a mac and cheese with a very young Gouda. It is quite literally just the macaroni and cheese. The cheese is to die for creamy. On the rare occasion that I end up with a slightly more mature cheese, a tablespoon or so of cream is all it needs to get to that smooth, creamy point.

  • Thank you for the young Gouda idea. I'll still check out the Sodium Citrate method a few people mentioned below. – RunThor Dec 13 '17 at 21:47
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The ideal answer here is to use Sodium Citrate to make a cheese of your choice soluble in water. This Modernist Cuisine article is exactly what you want.

If you look at the ingredients in Velveeta or most American cheese slices you'll see that they use Sodium Citrate to emulsify the cheese and water. Most of the other techniques here, including your bechamel concept, will dull the flavor of the cheese, and in many cases fail to approximate the texture of Velveeta. It sounds like the Serious Eats approach mentioned in another answer would achieve something similar, but it's unclear to me why the author explicitly eschews the use of Sodium Citrate.

In any case, the technique I'm suggesting will allow you to get the exact consistency and stability of Velveeta with the minimum possible effort and without masking the flavor of your base cheese at all. You can get Sodium Citrate from multiple suppliers on Amazon or elsewhere online.

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You can probably modify any cheese to melt similarly to velveeta.

Sodium citrate would be my go-to method. It's actually one of the main things that gives Velveeta its smooth, processed texture, but you can buy it yourself and add it to a cheese of your choice. (A good alternative would be gelatin plus (evaporated) milk; see rumtcho's answer for a description of that. It's not quite as close to processed cheese texture, but it should be good enough for your purposes.)

The basic process is to heat a bit of liquid (water, milk, broth, beer, whatever you like) with sodium citrate in a pan to dissolve it, then slowly blend in grated cheese, letting it melt, until it's all incorporated. Ideally, you use an immersion blender to get it really smooth, but I think determined whisking would suffice. For thinner sauces, you can use more liquid. I've also seen varying ratios of cheese to sodium citrate, anywhere from 25:1 to 90:1.

Here's an example generic recipe for just the cheese. I've seen this kind of thing used generally for sauces, for example this Serious Eats "Modern" Mac and Cheese recipe or this nacho cheese recipe, but it should work for you too as a melted processed cheese replacement.

That example recipe says to use immediately; it'll be like melted processed cheese at that point. If you let it cool, I'm pretty sure it'd solidify into something like Velveeta.

Note that if you want it to be really thick, you could likely use slightly less liquid, as long as it's enough to cover the bottom of your pot and dissolve the sodium citrate. You could probably use a little less sodium citrate too and still have it be plenty smooth while seeming a bit less processed, but since you're actually trying to replicate processed cheese, I guess you might as well go all in!

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If you want the texture of Velveeta, you have to make your own processed cheese. The best way I know is to mix finely grated cheese with some kind of milk or cream, gently melt, and add gelatine to make the sheets. You can find the story of perfecting the process, as well as the final recipe, on Kenji Lopez Alt's column on Serious Eats, http://aht.seriouseats.com/2011/09/the-burger-lab-how-to-make-super-melty-cheese-slices-like-american.html.

If you wonder "but why make processed cheese if I want to get away from Velveeta" - if you use some good quality, aged aromatic cheese as the source, the end product tastes differently from the stuff you can buy.

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To maintain the consistency of Velveeta you would be well served to start with a base of Cream Cheese into which you can melt other soft cheeses. You have a wide range of choices. Cream cheese will promote the right texture and is a neutral enough flavor that what ever you want to add as a 'feature' cheese(s) will come through.

Personally, I might look at a smokey Swiss & Cheddar I get at my local deli or for a little kick some pepperjack.

  • Thanks if I can't find a young Gouda a quartet of Swiss, Cheddar, pepperjack, and creamcheese might be perfect for the group. Do you melt the harder cheese then remove the heat to add the cream/soft cheese before spreading? – RunThor Dec 15 '17 at 15:20
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    I usually get the base warm (cream cheese, maybe some beer) flowing smoothly and then add the harder cheese, in grated form, to the sauce. – Cos Callis Dec 15 '17 at 15:42

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