Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cheese of the Week: Queso de Bola de Ocosingo.

For this the first blog post of Cheese of the Week, I present to you………….. Queso de Bola de Ocosingo. This cheese is manly produced by small co-ops in the towns around the city of Ocosingo, in the north-east part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. This cheese resembles an Italian Cacciocavallo in the type and form. It has an outer rind that hardens and forms a casing that is sometimes edible (however, I don’t like the chewy-ness of the rind). In the inside, the paste is a bright straw yellow (with the texture of cream cheese) and the flavour is lactic (milky), salty and fresh. The cheese is normally made with raw cows milk from small Holstein herds.

This cheese is almost impossible to get outside of Chiapas, but if you ever travel down there to see the Mayan ruins of
Bonampak, the cheese will be available in most tienditas de abarrotes.

There are two cheeses produced in the state of Chiapas, 1) Queso de Cuadro and 2) Queso de Bola, both are fresh raw cows milk cheeses. Queso de Cuadro is fresher, salty and very lactic. Some people in Mexico City, like a matured Queso de Cuadro, four to five months old, until it has become dry and even saltier to sprinkle on top of enchiladas.

I chose this cheese because I got word this past week that I will be attending the
13th International Expo of Non-Traditional Products in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. During this event, I will taste fifty samples of Queso de Cuadro (Doble Crema) de Chiapas. Since the summer of 2007, I have been working with a group of consultants for the Chiapas Ministry of Agriculture help local cheese producers to develop a single recipe for this cheese.

In 1994, the Zapatista movement entered a political conflict with the Mexican government. After the accords of San Andres, the government promised to support rural farmers. Many of them are indigenous peoples and these programs were intended to bring them out of poverty. The Ministry of Agriculture then became very interested in small cheesemaking co-ops that produced Queso de Bola and Queso de Cuadro and granted funds to develop newer cheesemaking facilities.

Most of these cheesemakers are family run outfits with no more than four to six employees, mostly family members. Fifty percent make farmstead cheese (made with your own cows milk), while the other half produce cheese with milk bought form local producers. At this moment there is only one farm that is certified organic and there are issues over pasteurization.

Now, the State of Chiapas and the Mexican Institute for Industrial Property (part of the Ministry of Economy) are trying to develop collective trademarks for cheese. This is the first step in the long process to get a Denomination of Origin in Mexico. Currently, there are no cheeses with this denomination, while other items like Tequila have been recognized for a long-time. The Queso de Bola de Ocosingo has already been granted a collective trademark and is now in the periodic review to be granted a full fledged Denomination of Origen.

Both cheeses have been produced in Chiapas since the time of the Porfiriato, and some believe that Queso de Bola was actually developed following a recipe for the
Edam. However, in the techniques of cheesemaking employed and even in the flavor, they seem to have little in common. Still, the spherical shape of Queso de Bola may have had some inspiration from that Dutch cheese.

Edam was originally introduced to Mexico when the ports of the Yucatan peninsula were a common stop for transatlantic cargo ships. In fact Yucatan food often incorporates Edam, -- a great dish featuring this cheese is Relleno de Queso. This meat and cheese dish is made by stuffing a carved Edam with minced meat and spices.

Queso de Bola and Queso de Cuadro, are two of the ten distinct Mexican cheeses. As Steven Jenkins wrote in a recent email, “there are no new cheeses.” This is true, Mexico didn’t have cows before the conquista and almost all cheesemaking techniques were brought over by Franciscan monks evangelizing Christiantianity to the indios. For this reason, I think Queso de Bola and Queso de Cuadro produced by indigenous farmers shows exactly how cheese can be political.

5 comments:

  1. We just returned from Chiapas and loved the Doble Crema.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am happy that you liked Queso Doble Crema.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello,
    My husband and I just visited Tonala, Chiapas.
    We LOVED the Quesos de Doble Crema. Do you know if it can be purchased in the United States? We live in Sarasota, FL, U.S. Thank you for the information from your blog.

    Susan G

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hola me llamo laura y me gustaria encontrar una tienda en chicago donde se vendiera el queso doble creema de chiapas el que esta envuelto con papel amarillo.

    ReplyDelete
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