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What is Queso Fresco?

Posted by Marco Antonio Mendoza Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"What is Queso Fresco?"

Queso Fresco which in Spanish means "fresh cheese" is a soft, creamy, mild unaged white cheese whose origin is from Spain.  It was with the arrival of the Spaniards to the Americas that queso fresco was introduced.  Today, queso fresco is a eaten, prepared and used in practically every Latin American country and Peru is no exception, with the majority of the Peruvian population consuming the cheese on a daily basis.  Queso fresco is made by heating whole fresh milk to near-boiling tempertures, then an acidifying agent like vinegar is added.  The mix is stirred until the formation of curds is visible at which point the curds are strained in cheesecloth for three to five hours.  Some versions retain more water while others are pressed and therefore are less watery.  The total production time required to make queso fresco takes only a few days (less than a week). 

Queso fresco may be made with cow's milk or even a combination of cow's milk and goat's milk.  Queso fresco is a cheese that is commonly used in several Peruvian dishes like the lesser known (to tourists at least) Solterito Arequipeño (a salad made of queso fresco, onion, olives, tomato, rocoto, beans and olive oil), the most recognizable use of the cheese being in dishes like Papa a la Huancaina or Ocopa

Depending on the region (Arequipa vs. Huancayo or Cusco) in which the queso fresco was made the consistency of the cheese can vary a little, although it is agreed upon that most queso fresco crumbles/falls apart quite easily making it perfect for salads. 

"What are the Health Benefits of Queso Fresco?"

Most cheeses contain high percentages of acidic fats making them a fairly fatty food to consume, however queso fresco made from goat's milk is low (%7) in fat content making it a healthier alternative.  Even better news is the linoleic acid which exists in this type of milk, an acid that helps to reduce/burn fat!  Queso fresco also contains a fairly wide range of vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, B, & D which are all important to help preserve and maintain our body tissues.  Aside from Calcium which is found in milk products, queso fresco also contains other minerals such as, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium

"Where can I get Queso Fresco?"

If you haven't already tried queso fresco I highly recommend it.  For those who live in the States, queso fresco can be purchased in most specialty or Mexican markets.  If you want to try before you by a whole dang loaf I would suggest trying it at a local Mexican restaurant (for those in the USA) since it is a cheese that is used in many of their dishes.  For those in Peru who haven't tried it (and I don't know why you would'nt have?) try ordering Papa a la Huancaina, Ocopa, Solterito Arequipeño, tequeños, or ask for any other dish that might contain it. 

A homemade video of how to make queso fresco for those interested in making it themselves:

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