Some people will call this “ranchero style cheese” because this type of cheeses are more common to be found at the markets being sold by people that come to sell them from the nearby ranches or farms. What you will find at the city supermarkets will be the ones produced in massive quantities by large cheese factories, but lack the flavor and sometime organic characteristics of these cheeses that will vary on taste and shapes depending on the regions of México.
The Spaniards introduced cows, sheep and goats to the Mexican culture, and soon after, they started making cheese, but the arrival of Germans, French and Swiss immigrants gave the process of making cheese in Mexico a different twist. Like the Aged cheese “(Queso Añejo)”, Manchego cheese (melting cheese) and the Mennonite Cheese from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, similar to Muenster cheese in United States.
All these cheeses have a close and tasteful resemblance of the European-made cheeses from which we inherited them more than 300 years ago. Of course, there is the famous Queso Oaxaca, also known as the Mexican Fresh Mozzarella. But one of my favorites is the aged and crumbling cheese from Tabasco and Chiapas in a brick like shape preserved with a cover of wax. This cheese has a creamy-crumble texture ideal for empanadas and enchiladas.
There is a lot of history behind our cheese to tell in just one post, my hope is that you enjoy just a little bit of it as much as I do.
Now to the recipe.
Ingredients for a 1 pound cheese
- 1 gallon of raw milk *( I often used milk from the store and it works fine)
- 1 rennet tablet **
- 2 tablespoons of water
- Salt to taste
- * I have used milk from the supermarket and it works fine.
- ** These tablets are usually sold at Hispanic Stores. And the price range is 50 cents each. Or you could buy liquid rennet online and use it according to the manufacture instructions. If you don't find the rennet, I had also made cheese using 2 tablespoons of white vinegar or lime juice when rennet is not available. So no excuse, you can make it.
1. Heat the milk to about 110F , if you do not have a candy thermometer you can test the milk by placing a small drop in your hand, the milk is ready when you can barely stand the heat of it. Please do not burn yourself. Be cautious.
3. Once the milk is at the temperature needed add the rennet stir thoroughly for about 5 seconds and let the mixture rest for about 1 hour or less depending of the type of rennet used. The curds will start to form. It could form a solid mass that won’t stick to your fingers and will be separated from the whey.
Used a knife to cut the curds in small pieces.
4. Place the curds in a cheese cloth over a large bowl or container to catch the drips. Take the 4 corners of the cheese cloth and form a bag with it.
5. Put some pressure in the cheese cloth to drain as much liquid as possible. Open the bag add the salt. Stir the curds with your hands or if you prefer place it in your food processor to form a fine and crumbly mixture.
Optional: At this time you could add finely chopped Epazote Herb leaves, jalapeño pepper or Red Bell pepper to give the cheese a different flavor.
6. Place it back in the cheese cloth and hang until the cheese if firm and slightly drained like in the picture. About 1 and 1/2 hour. Unwrap and let it rest for one more hour. Refrigerate it after this time.
You can also place the curds into round molds and leave them to drain. Leave them for the same time as above and turn over when completely drained. Here they are draining in top of the broiling tray. That is the only thing that came to my mind where they could drain without making a mess.
“Homemade ricotta over homemade bread”
With the leftover whey, you could make “Requeson” , ricotta cheese. Just heat the drained whey over a low heat and let it simmer until a new set of firm curds forms and drain using the cheese cloth.
Enjoy! ¡Buen provecho!