I love cheese. In sandwiches, pasta, with excelsior water crackers or bun. Cheese is the ultimate ingredient. Just one problem though. I’m allergic to it. A lot of us are and we don’t even know it. No matter how hard I try to cheat and sneak it in between lettuce and bread, those pesky, squeezable whiteheads will always rat me out.
Thankfully, my travels have landed me in Oaxaca, Mexico. There isn’t much you’ll be able to eat here without having the locally made cheese alongside or within the dish, NOT called cheese but quesillo.
What makes locally made ‘quesillo or quesillo oaxaqueño’ different from many other cheeses is the all natural process used to make the cheese. No weird multi-syllable preservatives, powdered formula or colourings, or the stuff that make processed cheese poison. Simply Natural Quesillo.
You’ll need :
1) Milk from a ruminant mammal (e.g.cow, goat). Today we used cow’s milk.
2) A portion of the stomach from the mammal whose milk is being used as the base.
3) Rennet, which is naturally found in the stomach of the animal is used to ferment plant based foods prior to actual digestion (more on this later).
A section of the cow’ stomach cured in salt and lime.
Step 1 : Add the rennet to the milk. A basic guide for measurement is 1 litre of rennet to 20 litres of milk. Wait for milk to coagulate.
Ours took 15 minutes because we used some high quality rennet. Coagulation can take up to 24 hours.
Step 3: Strain mixture into cheese cloth (yeah you actually use a cheese cloth to make cheese)
Step 4: Pour remaining liquid into a separate storage container and save for later.
Step 6: Squeeze remaining liquid from mixture. Repeat process until all the liquid has been pressed through the cheese cloth.
Step 7 : Break down and crumble queso, ensuring to get rid of large lumps and increasing the surface area, preparing for the next step.
Step 8 : Add salt to taste. Traditionally, Oaxaqunos don’t like too much salt in their queso, but if you’re not Mexico, do you.
At this point, you can choose not to go any further as you would have just made queso freso.
Queso Fresco can be easily stored and set in fridge for use at any time. If you’ve ever made flour dumpling or homemade burgers, then this should be a simple process. Shape the queso fresco between palms, then stuff into molding for storage and into the fridge. This is also the basis for most cheeses made around the world, just without the questionable additives.
Step 9 : To the remaining queso fresco, carefully add hot water.
Step 10: Bind mixture using extra precaution until cheese starts melt and bind.
Step 10: Strain and repeat until queso has fully bound into itself, with no crumbles to be found.
The queso should look and feel similar to a dough. Continue to add hot water, bind and strain until no more loose, unbound queso can be found in the mixture.
Your queso should now look something like this. If not, put your arm into it a bit more.
Step 11 : Now comes the fun part, just before the eating. You gotta roll this bad boy out and stretch it into edible thickness. A partner would be great for this step.
Step 12: Cut into smaller portions and if you’re up to it, try the traditional method of rolling quesillo oaxaqueno.
I’m not even gonna pretend like I fully understand how to do the roll. It’s a bit harder than it looks, but with a couple tries you should be good to go. Thankfully, it’s not a necessary component to eat your quesilloooo!!!!!!
How to roll:
Take a section of your quesillo, salt you fingers then glide gently over the cheese from end to end.
Using your index finger, create loop around that finger then hold loop in place with thumb of other hand.
From here on out, you’re pretty much rolling exactly how you see it below 🙂
Do you remember that extra liquid we put aside (called whey) for later in step 4? Get a nice, big, thick slice of hard dough bread cause now you have fresh, homemade unsalted butter. When left to sit, the butter will rise to the top and solidify in a cool place.
Things to note:
Rennet comes from the stomach of the cow. So your very FIRST attempt can either be with store bought rennet, or you can make your own by leaving the cow stomach in warm water for 24 hours. Afterwards, warm the water again then add to the milk as seen in step 1.
Ta-Dah! Also, give thanks to Chef Adhey and Expert Quesillo maker Jorge for a wonderful