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.
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…
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?
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.
Don’t forget to email us your questions!