MEXICAN AND CARIBBEAN CUISINE IS "IN"
It can be hot, now
it seems everyone thinks its cool! And, surprise, Mexican cheeses are
mild--not hot and spicy. People familiar with South-of-the-Border foods
know that Mexicans prefer their Jalapenos on their cheese, not in their
Today, we all know that Italian cuisine requires Italian cheeses. (Can
you imagine grating American cheese over pasta?) The same is true for
Hispanic cuisine. Mexican and Caribbean foods simply look and taste better
when prepared with authentic Mexican and Caribbean cheeses.
Why? Because Hispanic
cheeses are different from American or European cheeses. They look,
taste different. Our La VacaRica brand
products come with bilingual recipes on each retail size package plus
recipe cards showing serving suggestions. For institutional buyers, our
products come with foodservice recipes (free 15 minute video "Cooking
with Hispanic Dairy Products" available with purchases over $100). And,
without further ado, here's our guide to Hispanic cheeses.
The most popular varieties of Hispanic cheese are fresh, white cheeses
with names like "Queso Blanco", "Panela", "Queso Fresco", "Queso Del Pais",
and "Queso Para Freir". These cheeses all share similar make procedures
and have similar eating and cooking characteristics. They were made by
local artisans and had shelf-lives of less than one week. They were literally
delivered to market wrapped in banana leaves and unsold pieces were returned
after five days! Today using the best, modern sanitation techniques we
offer four months refrigerated (33-38 degrees Fahrenheit) shelf life on
most of our "fresh" Hispanic cheeses: Queso Blanco, Panela and Queso Para
Freir. Our Queso Fresco cheese has a 90 day refrigerated shelf life.
Fresh Hispanic cheeses are mild tasting and crumbly. They are often eaten
as snacks with tropical fruits (this is the Latin version of our U.S. treat
of eating aged cheddar cheese with pieces of fresh apple). Fresh Hispanic
cheeses are most often used as an ingredient--either crumbled onto a salad
or cooked as part of a hot dish.
- Queso Blanco
This mild tasting cheese is the most popular cheese South of the
Border--both for snacking and cooking. It is wonderful to cook with
because unlike American-type cheeses, it will become soft and creamy
when heated, but will not melt! With this cheese you can make cheesier
stuffed chicken breasts, stuffed peppers, enchiladas and burritos! For
a delicious, simple treat, cube the cheese and fry it on a hot skillet
(recipe on package).
- Queso Blanco con FrutasTM --Pina y Mango--
The name of this cheese means "White Cheese with Fruit--Pineapple
and Mango". This cheese is 25% lower in fat than common cheddar cheese
because its loaded with fruit pieces.
The cheese is a delightful sweet treat. We've added real pieces
of Pineapple and Mango to our Queso Blanco cheese to give it limitless
entertaining potential. You can cube the cheese and pan fry it for
a delicious toasted appetizer since the cheese will become soft and
creamy when heated but will not melt. (recipe on package) Or, place
the cubed cheese on a shish-ka-bob for a grilled delight since it
won't melt off the skewer!
How about a better cheeseburger?First, mix the crumbled cheese into
ground meat then form into patties. Then grill or fry as usual. Your
family will love these "cheese-in-the-burgers"!
The most popular fresh cheeses in Mexico. This cheese is mild, white,
and crumbly. Like Queso Blanco it will not run when heated--it will
get soft and creamy but will not lose its shape. The cheese is used
in Mexico for many cooked dishes and is commonly crumbled over salads,
tacos, chili and burritos.
- Queso Para Freir
Very popular among people from the Caribbean. This cheese is used
frequently for frying because it resists melting even more than Queso
Blanco. In fact it is a variation of Queso Blanco that is similarly
white and crumbly, but saltier.
- Queso Fresco
Very popular among many people of Mexican descent due to its fine-grained
texture. It is often used to crumble over salads or put in refried
The key to understanding
"fresh" Hispanic cheeses is understanding that they do not melt. When
heated these fresh cheeses become warm and soft but do not lose their
shape or run. This characteristic is essential in many Hispanic dishes--and
a requirement that no common cheese can meet. For instance many Hispanic
dishes use cheese as a stuffing ingredient--Enchiladas and Chile Rellenos
are popular examples. In such dishes the use of common cheese as an ingredient
results in the cheese melting during cooking and running out. However,
use of Queso Blanco for example, would allow the chef to present the diner
with the cheese soft, warm and in the food, not running all over the plate.
Thus, the chef is able to offer a truly superior end-dish by using Queso
Blanco--an end-dish that looks and tastes better!
As another example,
true Mexican refried beans have fresh cheese mixed into the dish during
cooking--not merely shredded onto the surface as a garnish. The fresh,
white cheese usually used (Panela) will not melt in the dish. Instead,
the authentic refried beans dish offers the diner a delightful mixture
of savory bean and refreshing cheese morsels.
Another example of
the importance of using authentic cheese in Hispanic cooking is in Caribbean
Fried Cheese recipes. These dishes, essentially require that the cheese
be cut into large 1/2" to 1" cubes and thrown directly onto a hot frying
pan. The cheese should get warm but not lose its shape. The cheese is
usually served after it has browned on all sides--but has not melted.
Clearly no common cheese can be used in such a recipe. Only a "fresh"
Hispanic cheese such as Queso Para Freir will suffice for demanding preparation
situations such as this. Increasing numbers of "American" restaurants
are using this cheese as a replacement for breaded mozzarella sticks because
of consumer comments and the fact that since it will not melt, it will
not gum-up the operation of their deep fat frier if it is left unattended
for too long. It is often served both plain as an appetizer and dipped
in powdered sugar as a dessert.
The second major group of Hispanic cheeses are melting cheeses. These
cheeses have names like "Queso Quesadilla", "Asadero",
"Queso de Papa", "Oaxaca", and "Queso Para Derritier".
These Hispanic cheeses melt without seperating into solids and oil. Traditionally,
these cheeses were made by heating raw milk and letting the milk "run",
that is letting the native bacteria multiply. The result was a modestly
acidic cheese similar to our common muenster cheese but with obvious shelf
life limitations. Today we offer the most popular Hispanic melting cheeses
with seven-month refrigerated shelf life due to our strictly sanitary
cheeses are generally mild tasting (except Queso Jalapeno) and smooth
textured. They are often eaten as a snack right out of the package. Usually,
as their name suggests, they are melted in hot dishes. Hispanic melting
cheeses, unlike common U.S. cheeses such as cheddar, do not seperate into
oil and solids when they are heated. Consequently they make dishes like
pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheese burgers more "cheesy" and
less greasy. Of course they are invaluable in preparing Mexican dishes
such as quesadillas and tacos.
Use of Hispanic melting
cheeses like Queso Quesadilla or Asadero in popular dishes like quesadillas
or nachos greatly increases the finished dishes' appeal. The diner is
presented a plate with more cheese in the right place--on the tortilla
or the chips--and less greasy oil all over the plate!
- Queso Quesadilla
This cheese is smooth, soft, mild and white. It is a family favorite throughout
Mexico both for snacking and because it melts easily to make your favorite
dishes rich and creamy.
Melt on a tortilla for an easy, delicious quesadilla (recipe on
package). Also great for cheesier grilled cheese sandwiches--plain
or with ham or turkey. It's a wonderful topping for cheeseburgers.
A smooth, yellow cheese with more "tang" than the mild Queso Quesadilla
cheese. This cheese is ideal for baking because its stronger flavor
adds to the appeal
of a baked dish.
- Queso Jalapeno
A smooth, soft cheese with bits of real Jalapeno pepper in it. Ideal for
making quesadillas with a little extra zesty flavor or for anytime
This cheese is our only "hot and spicy" item. We created it in
response to U.S. demand for a "hot" product by simply adding
jalapeno peppers to our famous, smooth Queso Quesadilla cheese.
- Queso Media LunaTM
This is a popular cheese in Puerto Rico where it is also called Queso
de Papa. It is an orange, moist Colby-type cheese which is used for
cooking and snacking.
The third major group of Hispanic cheeses are hard, grating-style
cheeses. They have names like "Cotija", "Seco", "DuroBlando", and "Anejo
Enchilado". They all have strong flavor and a dry crumbly texture. Traditionally,
they were made by salting fresh cheese and leaving it outdoors to age
in the heat for up to a year. Today, we offer you these hard cheeses that
have been made under the strictest sanitary conditions. Still having the
traditional strong flavor and crumbly texture.
Known as the "Parmesan of Mexico", this cheese is strongly flavored,
firm, and perfect for grating. It is used in Hispanic cooking in a manner
similar to the way Parmesan is used in Italian cooking. Cotija is commonly
used to add a lively garnish to common dishes: simply sprinkle on top
of refried beans, salads, chili or lasagna. In Mexico it is also widely
used to enhance the flavor of many savory dishes by mixing directly
into the casserole or recipe. In the U.S. it is increasingly popular
on pasta. See for yourself how much zestier any pasta or even simple
macaroni and cheese will taste with a sprinkle of Cotija!
- Anejo Enchilado
A firm, pressed cheese rolled in paprika. This cheese is not as strongly
flavored as Cotija but can be easily shredded or grated. It is commonly
used as a topping or stuffing for enchiladas, burritos, and tacos.
A strongly flavored Caribbean cheese that is firm, and has a mild smoked
flavor. It is used for grating in a manner similar to Cotija.
The fourth major group of Hispanic cheese are not cheeses at all--they
are heavy, thick, fresh creams that are used as ingredients in many Hispanic
dishes. The products originally were simply the cream skimmed off the
milk prior to traditional cheesemaking and had a shelf life of only one
or two days. Today we offer our Hispanic Creams with a 60-90 day refrigerated
life. They are packed in our Wisconsin Grade A fluid milk plant.
uses thick, fresh creams to add richness to many dishes. They are used
as garnishs on savory dishes such as quesadillas and enchiladas; as toppings
on desserts and as thickeners in sauces and gravies.
- Crema Mexicana
The most popular Hispanic cream. This product is thick, rich, fresh
cream. It has the thickness of Devonshire Cream or Creme Fraiche and
has the sweet taste of heavy whipping cream. It is used as a dessert
topping either directly out of the package or whipped. In fact, many
chefs specify our Crema Mexicana for their whipped toppings because
it will hold its whip for four days, not the four hours one can expect
from whipping common heavy cream. Crema Mexicana is also used as an
ingredient to thicken sauces and to give entrees a thicker, richer taste.
For a delicious addition to your pasta sauces try mixing one part Crema
Mexicana to three parts pasta sauce. You'll love the result. Especially
with tomato based pasta sauces: creamier and richer than any pasta sauce
you've tried before!
- Crema Agria
The other popular variety of Hispanic cream is Crema Agria (known in the
Caribbean as CremaCentroAmericana). This is a thick, rich cream with
a tangy flavor. Its slightly tangy flavor makes it an ideal garnish for
savory dishes such as burritos, enchiladas and fajitas.