Monday, March 22, 2010

Queso tipo "Manchego" Mexicano

This cheese is very popular in Mexico. Like Quesillo de Oaxaca it is mostly used to melt in quesadillas and in many other Mexican dishes with melted cheese on top. The name is a misuse of the word Manchego, as unlike the original Spanish Manchego, the Mexican version is made with pasteurized cow's milk.

I think of this cheese as a mix of a cheddar and a colby. The texture is normally bouncy, straw color and creamy looking. The smell is sharp, like that of a cheddar, but the flavor is closer to a tangy colby. Good versions of this cheese are creamy and the fat of guersey cows milk make it really nicely rounded. It is great for melting and it would create a gorgeous crust if put in the oven on top of enchiladas.

However, most versions in Mexico are now commercial with little resemblance to those "manchegos" of my childhood. The problem with the commercial versions is that we do not know where the milk comes from and that normally means that the milk needs to be pasteurized to keep it safe.

Since the beginning of the entry of Mexico to the global economy, conglomarates have taken over the dairy industry with large holdings in milk factories in states in central Mexico.

Good substitutes for this cheese are Queso Chihuahua and Queso Menonita. Both these options are produced in the north of the country and are normally produced in smaller farms. Queso Chihuahua is made into big ground that resamble a parmesan, and are covered with cloth and aged between 6 to 8 months.

Queso Menonita is produced by Menonites who settled in the state of Chihuahua and produce blocks of their cheese from their own cows. This religious/ethnic minority established in Mexico fleeing religious intolerance in the US after having migrated from The Netherlands. Their cheese can normally be bought from them in the edges of their farms or in Mexico city where it is common to see men dressed in their traditioanal overalls and cowboy shirts.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Mexico and to buy one of their blocks, it will last about 3 weeks once open and its flavour will transport you to their farms and their simpler way of life.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone.

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