Provel Cheese

Provel cheese (pronounced "pro VEL") is unique to St. Louis. It's a three-cheese blend of provolone, white cheddar, and swiss cheese (though some places like Cecil Whittakers adds some colby to it). It tastes very creamy and has a very smooth texture.

When used on pizza, typically some liquid smoke is mixed in. Pepper is added in fairly large quantities in some pizzarias.

It's not only for pizza, either ... you can buy provel by itself for use on sandwiches, pasta, crackers, or salads.

Where to buy Provel

If you're in St. Louis, provel cheese is easy to find and is actually sold at many grocery stores (under the Imo's brand). Dierberg's almost always has some.

If you're NOT in St. Louis, it's going to be a little trickier. Imo's allows you to order some online and have it shipped to you, but there's a $75 minimum order and you have to be home to accept the delivery. For most people this is no problem, but for some (particularly people who enjoy experimenting in the kitchen anyway), it might be better to try to make your own.

How to make Provel

Recipes vary, but if you want to try to make your own provel cheese, you can try this basic formula: 2 cups shredded provolone, 1 cup shredded swiss, 1 cup shredded white cheddar. Mix it well, and add two or three drops of liquid smoke and maybe some pepper. To make more, simply double, triple, or increase the recipe ten times (20 cups of provolone, 10 cups of swiss, etc.)

Try adding a little colby if you want to. Mix it all together real good, and you have yourself some homemade provel! Experiment with the recipe and the brands of cheese that you buy and you're sure to get close.

The Gerber Sandwich

Originally created and sold by Ruma's Deli, the Gerber sandwich is another great use for provel cheese. It's made with italian bread, ham, provel cheese, and seasoned with paprika and butter. It's served toasted.

While this is a fairly popular sandwich is St. Louis, it's very rare to find it anywhere else.

Opinions of Provel

A lot of people, particularly people who have grown up on the taste of it, love provel. Those who have moved away find its taste to be very nostalgic.

Interestingly, some people have lived in St. Louis all their lives (particularly non-gourmets), had provel dozens of times, and don't know what it is (they simply haven't heard the term).

Opinions of provel are not always high, particularly those who may refer to St. Louis style pizza as "velveeta on a cracker." Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that, due to low moisture content, provel can't actually be labeled as "cheese" (though other cheese products are in the same category).

Nevertheless, it's a mainstay favorite in St. Louis and an important building block for one of the best pizzas in the world.

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