String Cheese

By: Co+op

What makes string cheese stringy? During the manufacturing process, the cheese curds (usually mozzarella) are heated to about 135 to 140 degrees, which aligns the proteins in the cheese into neat rows. The cheese is then stretched and kneaded and cut into cylinders that can be peeled away in strips or threads (a favorite way to eat them).

String cheese is semi-hard, chewy, milky and a bit salty. It's typically sold in sticks about six inches long and less than one inch in diameter.

In Slovakia and Armenia, string cheese is hand-pulled into strings and then braided; it's sometimes flavored with black cumin seed. In Mexico, string cheese is sold in balls; it's known as Oaxacan string cheese, or Quesillo or Queso Oaxaca, and it's pulled apart into thin strands, then used for making quesadillas.

In the United States, string cheese is most often made from mozzarella, though combinations of mozzarella and cheddar and Colby Jack are increasingly available. Smoked, garlic and onion options are also sold.

String cheese makes a convenient, nutritious snack and a lunchbox staple—providing calcium and protein in a yummy stick form.

Besides eating on the spot, string cheese is handy for cutting and placing on skewers; for example, try alternating cut-up string cheese with cherry tomatoes for Caprese skewers, or with fruits like grapes and strawberries to dunk in a yogurt/honey dip. Or simply slice and toss pieces of string cheese into any party mix, with pretzels, nuts and dried fruit.

Serve the sticks alongside a bowl of chili or soup to round out a meal. Use them to stuff manicotti, meats or poultry, and wrap them with prosciutto or other meat strips for an instant appetizer. They're perfect for making breaded cheese sticks, too. Here's an easy-to-prepare recipe for Homemade Mozzarella Sticks from a food blogger.

String cheese packages are marked with use-by dates. Once opened, use the cheese within a few days. String cheese can also be frozen for a couple of months.

While string cheese wasn't originally developed as a snack food for little ones, it certainly has blossomed into a favorite for kids—and kids at heart.