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What is Cup Cheese?

By Anna Harrison
Updated May 16, 2024
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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 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.

Cup cheese is sometimes made with cottage cheese rather than American. In this variation, the cheese is combined with cream, butter, baking soda, and salt, and these ingredients are boiled together until the cottage cheese curds have melted. Occasionally Parmesan cheese or cornmeal is added to the mixture. The cheese is then stored in a pot, or cup, in the refrigerator. When sealed with a tight fitting lid to prevent it from drying out, it will keep for several weeks.

These types of cheeses are a staple in Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, where they are often made in large quantities and served at weddings and church suppers. The soft cheese is spread on homemade bread or crackers and is often topped with homemade jelly. Cup cheese is also used in many Amish dessert recipes to make pies and cheesecakes and is added to potato dishes, eggs. and soups as well.

Amish cup cheese recipes are usually designed for home usage, and cup cheese is not widely available in stores. They may occasionally be found in specialty shops or farmers markets in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, area. Cup cheese may be sold in these markets by the Amish or Mennonites themselves. It may also be sold at roadside stands outside individual Amish farmhouses.

It is not the healthiest of cheeses because it is very high in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Approximately 67% of the total calories in cup cheese are from fat, although it does not contain any trans fats. It has quite a bit of protein and small amounts of several minerals, however, including potassium, so it does have some nutritional value.

All types of cup cheese are made with raw, unpasteurized milk. The standard pasteurized milk sold in most stores will not produce the desired consistency and sourness. This type of milk is readily available to the Amish because they raise their own dairy cows. In other areas it can be difficult to find, although it may be sold at organic farms and natural food stores in some areas.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon993878 — On Dec 24, 2015

Shenk's out of Lancaster, Pa. makes several varieties, mild and sharp. I like the sharp better, my brother just sent me 6 of them for Christmas. I like to dip a hard sour dough pretzel into the room temp softened cheese. It freezes perfect as it is fat free. My mom grew up in Harrisburg and she fed it to us kids way back in the 1950's. Mmm, good stuff !

By Hazali — On Aug 24, 2014

At first, I was quite surprised at reading this article, especially considering that I've never heard of cup cheese before. However, from further reading, you can tell that it's a very old dish that might have only been around because people didn't have the resources to make other dairy products. One can see this from the fifth paragraph, which talks about it's high fat content. More than often, when people attempt to use food supplements as a means to substitute for a lack of resources, the ingredients can become quite cheap, and they don't taste as good as the real thing. Even in this day and age, we can see that. And speaking of dairy, Easy Mac is the perfect example. It's a powdered microwaved product, compared to the traditional recipe that's cooked on the stove.

By Krunchyman — On Aug 24, 2014

I love cheese, as it's definitely one of my favorite foods. Not only does it come in all sorts of varieties, but even more, it's great to eat by itself. Whether you eat it plain or with crackers, it's a treat the everyone can enjoy. However, it's something you need to watch out for if you have a dairy allergy. Fortunately, there are several solutions to this issue. If you're simply lactose intolerant, than you can take some dairy pills that will help you to digest the enzymes in the food. I'm glad that we've gotten past these limitations of what people can and can't eat. Sure, there might still be some problems, but for the most part, there are accommodations for those who are less fortunate than others.

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