“What’s In That?” Wednesday — Annatto in Cheese

I’m kicking off a new part of this blog that I’m going to call “What’s In That? Wednesday,” where I will take one food item and highlight the ingredients in it or just talk about a popular ingredient.

Today, let’s talk about cheese. When I shop for cheese, I look for cheeses with minimal and recognizable ingredients. If you choose full fat cheese in chunks, the ingredients typically are milk, salt and enzymes (used to actually turn the milk into cheese). Often, there is a fourth ingredient, annatto.

I’ve learned that annatto is added to cheese only for color, and if you shop diligently, it’s possible to find cheeses without annatto.

But, I’ve also learned that adding annatto to cheese is an age old tradition. It is a natural plant extract derived from the seeds of achiote trees.  You can learn more about it on Wikipedia or wisegeek. I’m personally trying to purchase cheese without annatto, just because it seems like an unnecessary ingredient, not because I’m overly concerned about the use of the coloring.

I do mainly buy chunk cheese and slice it or shred it myself to avoid the anti-caking agent (cellolose) that is added.