Queso by Ralph Villalovos III

18 09 2008

When Americans think of cheese they think of Wisconsin, California, and Vermont.  If they are looking for something more exotic they think of Switzerland, Italy, or France.  What about Mexico?  Mexico does not really come into mind. However, Mexican cheeses are becoming more common place in our society.


For hundreds of years, the staples of the areas now known as Mexico, Central America and South America, primarily consisted of fish and vegetables. Not until cattle were introduced by the Spaniards when they conquered the Americas, did cheese making become an option. At first, it was produced sporadically in large cities where it would take it would then take that name, such as Chihuahua and Oaxaca.  Most cheeses from Mexico have a more subtle taste than one would expect, given the strong flavors and spices normally found in Mexican cuisine. Believe it or not most Mexicans prefer any additional flavors, like jalapenos, on top of their food and not in the cheese.  Like other cheese producing countries, Mexico has many different varieties—from soft cheeses like Asadero (similar to Monterey Jack and used primarily for melting) to firm cheese like Cotija (the Mexican version of parmesan).  In the early 1970s in Southern California with its large Mexican population, a few different stores began popping up offering a variety of cheeses from Mexico that had never before been sold in the US.  Slowly, Americans began to take notice of the cheese-making abilities that our neighbors to the south had.  By the late 1980s one could go to any Mexican store in most big cities or large ethnic areas and find an assortment of different Mexican cheeses.  Now-a-days, you could walk to your neighborhood chain like Jewel or Dominick’s and have access to a variety of Mexican cheeses. Since many styles of Mexican cheese can be used in place of cheeses we use daily (like mozzarella, muenster or ricotta) the popularity and importing of Mexican cheeses will steadily increase. 


So be adventurous.  The next time your out shopping for your evening meal, instead of using the regular cheese that it calls for, try something different.




One response

2 10 2009
Tonya Baut

this is a great report and yes I love mexican cheeses!!!

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