Friday, May 4, 2012

Prepping for Cinco de Mayo - Queso Fresco #Recipe

Have you ever made cheese at home?

Now, don't laugh... it is very easy. I promise. Queso Fresco is a great recipe to get started with just in time for your own Cinco de Mayo fiesta. It doesn't even require any special ingredients.

All you need to make cheese is milk, an acid to start the reaction, salt to taste and cheese cloth or a towel for straining. In this case vinegar is used to separate the curd from the whey. Just plain white vinegar.

Be sure to check that your milk isn't ultra pasteurized. I don't have access to fresh milk, but I am lucky that our local dairy doesn't ultra pasteurize. Take a peak at the milk in the store. It will be marked if they use this sterilization method.

Okay, got the milk? Now grab some salt. You can use table salt, but the fine texture makes it harder to not overdo. I prefer coarse kosher salt. Even better if you can get a hold of some cheese salts. Our Market of Choice has a wide variety of flavors and colors to choose from.

Now Queso Fresco is fast and simple to make. It is a great topping for your Cinco de Mayo dinner, but this fresh cheese does not melt so skip the nachos. I love to use mine on lime refried beans, topping tostadas or sopes.

Ready to get started?

Queso Fresco

You Will Need:
1 quart milk
1 Tbsp. coarse kosher salt
2-3 Tbsp. white distilled vinegar

In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the milk over medium heat. Add in the kosher salt. Take care that the milk doesn't burn or scorch. I like it to come up to a simmer, but stir frequently and keep an eye on it. Unlike other cheeses queso fresco is very forgiving. Don't worry about it coming to a particular temperature. When it has a steady simmer turn the heat off.

Add 2 Tbsp. vinegar and stir. You should see the milk begin to separate immediately. Add another Tablespoon of vinegar if the curds and whey are not easily separating. Gently stir, but try not to break the curds.

Line a colander with doubled cheese cloth or a dish towel. Drain off the cheese. *Note if you want to collect the whey, place a dish under your colander. I use the whey for making pizza crusts later in the week.

Take up the corners of your cloth and gently squeeze. For a drier cheese, you can place a weighted plate on top of the cheese cloth and press out excess moisture.  When finished, refrigerate until needed. Sprinkle a little more salt over your cheese as needed. Crumble over your favorite food. Enjoy!

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