Miles to go for Mississippi Cheese Straws…

Lord knows, when two or more are gathered south of Memphis, cheese straws will be served.   Thankfully, a sweet friend back home sent me a tin of the scrumptious Southern staple over the holidays.  My husband thinks you can’t watch the SEC play football without cheese straws to nibble on!  As much trouble as homemade cheese straws are to make, I’m about to give up and buy stock in the Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory.  I’ve wrestled for years in the kitchen baking them for Bud’s daughters who count on them each year for Christmas.

I’ve learned the hard way that there is more to making cheese straws than having flour and sharp cheddar cheese in the house.  This year, I burned up a food processor when my dough got too thick to blend.  I had to resort to blending the ingredients with my hands, and I didn’t even do that correctly.  One of my favorite cookbooks, Being Dead is No Excuse:  The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral, says that success with cheese straws depends on “scrupolosity in two basic rules:  Always melt the butter before adding, and watch how you add the flour.”  Seems you can’t put it in all at once.  And, don’t knead the dough, work it lightly with your hands.  I’m convinced the real secret to making cheese straws is one that has never actually been revealed.  I’ve further determined that technique is more important than the list of ingredients.  For me, the real challenge is the process of squeezing the thick dough into the beautiful straw shape.   I’ve looked for years for a dispenser to imitate the thin, light straws that my friend Merrill Greenlee always seems to bake to perfection.  Of course, Merrill uses an old-fashioned crank press that can’t be bought anymore.  I’ve broken two plastic cookie presses trying to make thin straws.  I even bought a jerky maker, thinking there was no way in the world I could tear up an industrial-strength straw shooter.  I did.  Bud and I even tried using an icing bag with a star tip, but ripped the seam on the side of the icing bag right off the bat.

In case you want to try for yourself, I’m going to post Merrill Greenlee’s recipe here. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for the right equipment and the perfect combination of ingredients.  Thankfully, the Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory ships 365 days a year!

Merrill’s Cheese Straws

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2 sticks of Fleishman’s margarine, softened

16 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, grated (the oilier the better)

Cream margarine in mixer (not portable) and then add softened grated cheese.  Cream until extremely smooth.

3 cups of Martha White plain flour, slight, not packed.

2 t salt

2 t baking powder

1 t red pepper

Sift the three cups of flour and then re-measure three cups of flour (not packing down) and put back in sifter.  Add the salt, baking powder and red pepper and sift again.  Add this dry mixture, slowly to the cheese mixture and continue to cream…again until very smooth.

Put in the press, using the star tip.  Turn out onto a cookie sheet (not greased) with light strokes, pulling the press along.  This is what will make them light.  Bake for 10 minutes and then check for doneness.  Time is usually 10-12 minutes but the darker the cookie sheet, the faster they cook.  The bottoms should be slightly brown.  You want them to crisp up, but not too much so, or they will be hard.  Turn out on a wire rack to cool while the next batch cooks, then put in a tin can.  Cheese straws freeze well.

If things don’t go so well for you, you can always find them at

Let me know how it goes!


About ckeirn

This is an account of my life’s journey – road trips, places in my heart, people and things I love.
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4 Responses to Miles to go for Mississippi Cheese Straws…

  1. carlye f says:

    these look really good, but im afraid to try make them, i would mess them up im sure, but thanks for sharing, i really like reading these


  2. Joe Seawright says:

    I fancy myself a cheese straw expert. My Mom taught me how to do it years ago, and the No. 1 secret is how you handle the dough. A MIMUMUM amount of mixing, just enough to get the flour mixed in, and NO MORE, else they will be heavy and tough. The flour must be added in small amounts, maybe 1/2 cup at a time, until it’s all in and well mixed. The final product ready to go into the gun should be very light and fluffy. Even more important is the press, or gun as I call it. My Mom had an aluminum cookie gun she got with S&H green stamps back in the 50’s, and I used it for at least 30 years before I finally wore it out. The rings that hold both the front pattern plate and the back plunger and trigger mechanism finally got so worn that they would not stay on under the pressure generated when you squeezed the trigger, and would pop off. I have tried 5 or 6 newer guns over the later years, and never found one that would compare. The original was made by EKCO, and marketed as “Wear Ever”. I finally found links to vintage guns of this brand on ebay, but have never ordered one, thinking that they too may be too worn to be of any use, but I just may try to get one. Here’s the link, if you want to take a chance (Can’t go wrong for $20, huh?)

    Good luck, and send me the first LARGE tin when you get them done, okay?

    Yo’ Brother-in-law, O.Z. Rice


  3. Joe Seawright says:

    P.S. If you want a pretty good store bought cheese straw, try a brand I discovered in the grocery store in Greenwood (if you can find them in the backwoods up there in Mt. Home). “Geraldine’s”… they come in regular, chipotle, and some weird Tuscan variety, but the regular ones are the best I have found, even better than the MS gift or Indianola PH varieties, lighter and tastier. Not as good as mine of course, but a whole lot easier!



  4. Emily says:

    Mississippi Cheesestraws are the absolute best. Much more flavorful than other brands I have tried. I could eat an entire tin of MS cheesestraws in one sitting!


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