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.