When we moved to Georgia, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have access to Mexican foodstuffs like locally made corn tortillas or Mexican cheese. How wrong I was! There’s a large Hispanic population here in Athens, GA and you can find all types of Hispanic food – including special cuts of meat like carne picada – right at WalMart, Krogers and Publix. So even though I’ve moved to the South I can still enjoy the dishes I loved when I was growing up in Southern California like carne asada and Fish Veracruz since it’s easy to find all the ingredients like Queso Fresco, the Mexican version of feta.
However, when I saw Andrea Kruse of Adventures in All Things Food’s recipe for Queso Fresco for my Secret Recipe Club post, I had a light bulb moment. I didn’t have to go to the store – I could make my own at home! My family and I have made mozzarella before, which is easy. But making Queso Fresco is even easier – all you need is milk, kosher salt, vinegar and some cheese cloth.
Let’s talk about milk
The nice thing about making cheese at home is that you can choose the type of milk that you want – organic, non-organic, sourced from a local dairy, or just the regular stuff from the store. Traditionally, Queso Fresco is made from raw cow’s milk. Here in the US, it’s made from pasteurized milk. I used pasteurized organic whole milk, but you can use whatever you like.However, you do want to avoid ultra pasteurized milk, which will not curdle during the cheese making process.
Also, I had wondered about using low fat or skim milk. Since all the recipes I’ve looked up use whole milk, I stuck with that.
What kind of salt and vinegar?
Most recipes I see on the internet for Queso Fresco use kosher salt. However, the types of vinegar vary. Some use white distilled vinegar, others use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar. Others use rennet or lemon juice to curdle the milk. I used white distilled vinegar since I felt it wouldn’t add any negative flavors to the cheese.
Draining and pressing the cheese
I used a double layer of cheese cloth when I made my Queso Fresco. However, the cheese stuck to the cloth and some was left behind when I peeled it away from the cheese. Next time I make this, I’ll use thin muslin tea towels instead.
As far as pressing the cheese, the easiest thing to do is to gather the sides of your cheese cloth and make your Queso Fresco into a mound or disc shape. Another option is to use a large can to make a cheese press like this one.
Also, you’ll end up with around 2 1/2 cups of whey. You can use it in smoothies or instead of water in soups, bread dough, or savory dishes.
- 1 quart whole cow’s milk
- 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
- 2-3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the milk over medium heat. Add in the kosher salt.
- Bring the milk up to just barely a simmer, when it will start to foam up (around 190 degrees F). Make sure that the milk doesn’t burn by stirring frequently and keeping an eye on it. When it has a steady simmer and threatens to boil over, remove the pan from the burner.
- Add 2 tablespoons vinegar and stir. The milk should curdle and separate immediately. If not, add another tablespoon of vinegar. Stir gently so you don’t break the curds.
- Line a colander with doubled cheese cloth or a thin dish towel. Place colander in the sink or in a large pan. Drain off the cheese.
- Take up the corners of your cloth and gently squeeze out the whey. For a drier cheese, you can place a weighted plate on top of the cheese cloth and press out excess moisture. (I tried to remove as much whey as possible since I have a food sensitivity to it.)
- Cheese will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Enjoy it sliced or crumbled on salad, fish or vegetables or Mexican inspired dishes.