Provel cheese is a processed combination of provolone, Swiss, and cheddar cheeses. It is a mainstay in certain dishes like St. Louis-style pizza and cheese soup. The cheese has a white appearance and a butter-like texture.
Processed cheeses differ from traditional cheeses in that they are usually made in manufacturing environments. Thus, they contain artificial additives like food coloring and emulsifiers. Critics claim that provel cheese and other processed cheeses are less flavorful and are less healthy than cheeses made with more traditional, natural methods. Since these cheeses stay fresh longer and can be packaged in a variety of ways, they are more versatile than other cheese types, however. Provel cheese fans prefer this particular type of processed cheese because of its easy melting capacity and the relative ease with which an individual can break it or bite into it.
As a processed cheese, provel cheese combines three different types of cheese. One prominent ingredient is the yellowish, hard, and sharp-tasting cheddar cheese. The whitish, soft, and slightly spicy Swiss cheese constitutes the second major additive of provel cheese. Rounding out the combination is provolone cheese, an Italian cheese that comes in a variety of tastes and textures. Provel cheese results from melting these varieties of cheese together.
This cheese was popularized and remains influential in the cuisine of St. Louis, Missouri. Some records indicate that the cheese was in fact created as a unique topping for pizzas made in the St. Louis area, and the creation resulted from a collaborative effort between the Hoffman Dairy and Costa Grocery companies. A common St. Louis-style pizza places provel cheese atop an extra thin crust that is cut into squares. Since the food is a fixture of St. Louis, it is most often manufactured and sold in and around this area.
While the cheese is most commonly found in foods around St. Louis, it does occasionally arise in other dishes as well. Melted provel cheese often serves as a base for cheese soups. Toasted sandwiches known as Gerber sandwiches that contain ham and garlic butter also frequently have provel as a topping, as do some pasta dishes. In addition, this cheese may become a substitute for mozzarella or provolone cheese, and in fact the combined names of these two cheeses could actually be the origin of the provel moniker. Individuals may use the cheese on nearly any preferred food topping as well, from salads to hamburgers.