Cotija cheese is a salty, slightly acidic, cow’s milk cheese with a strong personality. Named after the city of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, it has been produced in the region for over 400 years. Traditionally, after the dairy cows grazed in the mountain pastures throughout Jalisco and Michoacán during the rainy season…
Panela is a moist and fresh, mild, and very mellow, cheese. Its texture is very firm and it can be cut into thick slices, broken into smaller pieces easily, or grated for antojos (snacks). In Mexico, this cheese is often used by cooks who want low-fat or healthier options. That doesn’t mean it isn’t irresistible!
I grew up in Mexico City with sweetened condensed milk in my family’s pantry. It is an ingredient that is part of my upbringing, it speaks of home to me. We had it not only for breakfast, dessert, milkshakes, smoothies, snacks and after school treats (drizzled over fresh fruit or spread over Maria cookies).
Oaxaca cheese is a mild tasting, gently salty, stringy white cheese with a deliciously chewy, full and filling bite. It is made in the same way as Mozzarella cheese. In fact, they taste very similar! Once the curds are formed, they are heated in water, stirred, and heated in water again. Throughout the process, as they are heated and stirred, they are made into very long threads that are pulled once and then again, until the desired consistency is achieved. Then the long threads are wrapped into balls.
Mexican cream is rich, thick, tangy and slightly salty. It used to be hard to find in the US, but now you can find it in Latin or International stores, but also mainstream stores! In Mexico, you can find it in any grocery store, and there are richer versions in small towns and ranches, where the cream earns its name “Crema Fresca” and I bet you would feel like me: that you can finish a whole pint in spoonfuls.
Queso Fresco, which translates to Fresh Cheese, can be found throughout Mexico with slightly different variations. It is also called Queso de Pueblo, Queso de Rancho and sometimes just Queso Blanco. In some small towns it may be found sold wrapped in banana leaves and if you are lucky, in the small baskets where they are sometimes made.