Got a Mexican cheese question? Ask Carlos.

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October 30, 2013Ask Carlos6 Comments

Homemade Mexican cheeses in Santiago Tianguistenco, Estado de México. (Photo snapped by yours truly.)

Homemade Mexican cheeses in Santiago Tianguistenco, Estado de México. (Photo snapped by yours truly.)

Now that I’m back in the States, I’ve found myself occasionally wondering where to find the best varieties of Mexican cheese, or which American cheeses might have Mexican properties.

Just a few weeks ago I emailed Carlos Yescas to answer my questions — he’s a Mexican cheese expert whom I interviewed on this blog last year, and we’ve become friends. He’s also written a new book in Spanish called Quesos Mexicanos.

Carlos wrote me back a pretty great response and I had a lightbulb moment. What if others out there had Mexican cheese questions, too? Surely I can’t be the only one.

Carlos Yescas

Carlos Yescas

So I’m launching a new feature on this blog. It’s called Ask Carlos and it aims to answer your questions — any question! — about Mexican cheese. We’ll kick off the first one with the question I sent him just a few weeks ago, but I would love to run your questions in the future. (Please don’t let me stand as the only one geeking out on Mexican cheese.)

If you’ve got an inquiry, en inglés o español, send it to us at askcarlos [at] themijachronicles.com.

And without further ado, here is the first installment of…

ASK CARLOS

Dear Carlos: I’m attempting to recreate an enchiladas queretanas recipe at home, and the recipe I have calls for queso ranchero. It’s supposed to melt in a pan with some sauteed onion, and that’s the enchilada filling.

Do you have any idea what an acceptable substitute might be? I don’t remember exactly what the filling is like, as I haven’t been to Querétaro in awhile, but I don’t recall it being oozy and stringy. The recipe does call for grating the cheese, however.

Guessing I don’t want to go with the “queso ranchero” label cheese they sell at the Latino grocery store around the corner?

Maybe Muenster?

Abrazos,
Mija

Carlos responds: Mija, I confess I love to get emails like this. This is one of the biggest issues in cheese life in Mexico. Queso ranchero is a fresh, queso blanco made with very fresh curd. However, in Querétaro, they call queso Adobera queso ranchero. All the states in the Bajío have this issue. The cheese they want is something similar to a Tetilla from Spain or something like a Colby from the midwest. It will be a cheese that melts easily, but doesn’t become stringy like quesillo. If you don’t have those available, you could also get Fol Epi, most Polish delis would carry it.

Finally, Muenster is an American cheese with a similar personality disorder. The French Munster is a very stinky cheese. There is also a German cheese, which I’m guessing is the cheese that was brought to the U.S. by immigrants and it is firmer, but still features a distinct orange rind from some b. linens growing on it. The American Muenster is basically a cheddar with color and a little bit of acidity, but really nothing worth talking about. The deli stuff is awful, I think, but since it is made in blocks, it is great for sandwiches.

Hope this helps.

–Carlos

Don’t forget to email us your questions!

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6 Responses to “Got a Mexican cheese question? Ask Carlos.”
  1. sanjapanja

    Great idea! I love cheese.

  2. Kathryn

    I will have some questions soon! Mexican cheese is very confusing….

    • Carlos Yescas

      I will be delighted to helping finding good options and getting some questions answered.

  3. Mark Peters

    Just reading this article after we have just finished our lunch of chicken & chorizo enchiladas – and one of the biggest issues is which cheese to use to bind the filling. We find the best we can go with is a white cheddar.
    This is the first time we have used my wife’s home made chorizo – made to a Mexican recipe (we can only buy Spanish style chorizo in Cape Town) – and it came out beautifully. She is definitely going to make more.
    Our lime tree is producing a decent crop for the first time, so we are able to use fresh line juice instead of bottled in our salsa and guacamole – but our dried chilli’s brought back from our trip to Mexico are close to running out and we cannot source more.
    As per the start to your article – It is tough when you love a cuisine and cannot get key ingredients.

  4. Carlos Yescas

    Mark, It sounds like you and your wife are really resourceful. I’m sure you could also start making your own cheeses and even growing your own chiles.

  5. Kathryn

    Finally! Thanks to Lesley, I found a terrific Latin American grocery store. I live in Los Angeles and incredibly, had never been to one. But Lesley posted a recipe requiring something that my local store did not have, so a quick google search led me to this place. Now I’m an addict – I go there at least twice a week. It’s a wonderful store called Top Valu. So, now to my cheese question. At the deli counter, they sell a variety of cheeses. They are all white and all look to my eyes, identical. They are as follows:
    Bulgarian Feta (such an odd thing to have!), Cotija, Panela, Fresco and Pancho. They also have three different cremas, one is a tan crema called Salvadoreana and the others are standard cremas, one salty and one not salty. But what is the difference between these cheeses? I have only tried Cotija. It tastes like feta, but somehow better. Thanks Carlos! And thanks Lesley! Happy you are writing a book! Kathryn

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