Amish Cup Cheese
Amish cheese spread (cup cheese) is a soft spreadable cheese that's made by melting white American cheese in hot milk.
I grew up Amish in the heart of Lancaster County. And cheese spread was one of my Sunday church lunch favorites.
We ate buns with peanut butter spread for every church meal. And then we topped it with bologna and cheese slices or cheese spread.
I was always happy when there was cheese spread because I happened to love the combination of Amish peanut butter and Amish cheese spread piled on top of a bun. And then we finished the meal with a slice of Apple Schnitz pie. Oh my, such a Yummy meal! 🙂
What is Cup Cheese?
If you google the question, "What is cup cheese?", you will get different results.
One article says that cup cheese is a very soft, sour cheese that has been made for centuries by the Amish and Mennonites of Pennsylvania Dutch country.
This spreadable cheese is said to have a stronger odor than Limburger and a gluey consistency similar to molasses. It is easy to prepare and is usually made by cooking processed American cheese with butter, baking soda, water, and milk.
I found that answer rather interesting since I don't consider cup cheese to be sour or have a strong odor.
But most articles seem to agree that cup cheese is a soft, spreadable cheese that's deeply rooted in "Pennsylvania Dutch" culinary history.
And you can call it cup cheese or cheese spread. The name cup cheese simply comes from the fact that you would serve or sell this cheese in a cup.
In PA Dutch, cheese spread is called "shmear käs". And it would be translated as spread/spreading cheese.
It is similar to the German translation "Schmelzkäse".
So, of course, we didn't call it cheese spread or cup cheese. It was simply known as shmear käs.
Cup Cheese Recipe
Even though it's been many years ago (at least 23 years), I can still clearly see my mom standing by the kitchen stove making a huge pot of shmear cheese.
The only times we ever made this Amish cheese spread was for church dinner. So we had to make a huge batch to feed around two hundred people.
She used to put a giant bowl of hot water on the stove and then put a large cooking pot inside of that to create a big double boiler.
I knew she used milk and huge blocks of white American cheese, but I wasn't sure what else was included in the recipe.
But I found cup cheese recipes in a couple of my Amish and Mennonite cookbooks. They were all pretty similar. Although, one of the recipes simply included milk, butter, and cheese. So the other ingredients are obviously optional.
Cheese Spread and Peanut Butter on Buns or Bread??
Some of you might be thinking, "Peanut butter spread and cheese spread on a bun, seriously?" And I can imagine that might sound strange if you didn't grow up with it.
My kids think I'm weird, and I haven't even been able to convince them to try it. But oh well, that way there's more for me to enjoy! 🙂
I pile the peanut butter and cheese on my bread or buns and reminisce on days gone by. It brings back memories of my childhood and growing up years.
And even though I would never go back to being Amish, there are honestly a few things that I miss from those days.
How Would I Use Amish Cheese Spread?
Besides eating cheese spread on buns and bread as the Amish do, you can use this spreadable cheese on anything that you like with cheese.
It has a bit of a different flavor, but it's really not that much different than regular cheddar cheese spread or nacho cheese sauce.
It sets up fairly thick after being refrigerated. But if you warm it or leave it to sit at room temperature for a while, it thins out.
So you can use it as a cheese dip with pretzels (another favorite of mine), chips, crackers, etc.
Try this cheese spread as a dip with homemade soft pretzels - they're so yummy!! Or serve it over pasta, quiche, or scrambled eggs. Get creative and enjoy your shmear käse!
What Kind of Cheese Should I Use?
Growing up, we mostly ate White American cheese and Velveeta. My mom bought the White American cheese in 5 lb. blocks. And those are the two kinds of cheese that I remember always having in our refrigerator.
There is a difference though, between the Deli/Deluxe White American cheese and the individually wrapped slices of imposter American cheese.
The individually wrapped slices are thinner, and they're not actually real cheese. And I don't know if it's just me, but I don't think they taste as good either.
This recipe is made with thicker Deluxe slices. So you may have slightly different results if you use the individually wrapped slices.
And even though the Amish usually make this with white American cheese, you could substitute it with yellow American as well.
Why Would I Add a Pinch of Baking Soda?
It may seem strange to add baking soda to Amish cheese spread, and what purpose does it serve anyway?
Baking soda is alkaline and can affect the pH of the cheese spread. This alteration in pH can impact the texture and consistency, making it smoother and creamier. Baking soda can help break down the proteins in the cheese, resulting in a softer and more spreadable texture.
However, it's essential to use baking soda sparingly, as even a small amount can significantly affect the texture and taste. Too much baking soda can lead to an undesirable soapy taste, which is why we're adding only a pinch.
More Amish Recipes
I hope you enjoy PA Dutch cheese spread as much as the Amish do. You really need to try it with the Amish peanut butter though. 🙂 If you try this recipe, I would love it if you left a comment and star rating below.
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Amish Cheese Spread (Cup Cheese)
- 1 1/3 c. milk
- 4 Tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)
- 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
- 20 slices Deli/Deluxe White American cheese
- pinch baking soda
- Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it to almost boiling over medium heat.1 1/3 c. milk
- Add the butter and salt. Stir until melted.4 Tbsp. butter (1/2 stick), 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
- Reduce heat to low. Separate the cheese slices and add them individually. Stir or whisk until melted. Remove from the heat and add the pinch of baking soda.20 slices Deli/Deluxe White American cheese, pinch baking soda
- Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top of the cheese and set it aside to cool.
- Once the cheese has cooled, you can beat it to create a nice smooth consistency. Or leave it as it is. Chill and enjoy.
- Keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one or two weeks.