Puerto rican cheese: culture: the word on cheese

culture: the word on cheese

Jamie Ditaranto | October 14, 2014
This article is from: Web Exclusive


From Cabrales to Cotija, get ready to learn about Latin American cheese with Jamie Ditaranto. Starting with Spain and Portugal, across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, along the Gulf of Mexico, through the Amazon, and down the Andes, we’ll learn about the history, styles, flavors, and textures of Latin American cheeses in all their delectable glory. So, grab a cerveza and settle in for some mouth-watering reading on Cheeses of Latin America. Missed last week’s introduction? Read it here.


While many varieties of gouda and manchego are available for purchase in Puerto Rico, the country is not particularly well known for its own cheese – not yet anyway. You might have heard of Queso de Papa, a young cheddar cheese style best for snacking, but until recently, there was significant lack of uniquely Puerto Rican artisan cheese. But Puerto Rico now has an emerging identity in the world of artisan cheese. The country’s domestic cheese production is growing, and one town is leading the way.

Welcome to Hatillo. With a population of approximately 41,000, this small region sits on the north coast of the island and is responsible for one third of the country’s milk production. It is home to Quesos Vaca Negra, a company dedicated to producing quality artisanal aged cheeses that proudly declare “Made in Puerto Rico.” In 2010, the company was founded by microbiologist Wanda Otero who wanted to combine her training with her love of raw milk cheeses, which were not readily available in Puerto Rico at the time. This lead her to create artisan cheeses made from local cow’s milk. According to Julie Schweitert Colazzo of The Latin Kitchen, Otero’s ambitious endeavors coincided with a peak moment in Puerto Rican culture that surely led to her success: 

“The Puerto Rican palate was beginning to diversify, with more Boricuas willing to experiment with novel tastes. At the same time, the number of upscale restaurants on the island was expanding exponentially, as were the growing number of international visitors considering Puerto Rico a food destination, thanks to increasingly popular food festivals, such as Saborea and SoFo.”

Most cheeses made by the island’s small family farms are typically semi-soft and young, like Queso Fresco, which is enjoyed in many Latin American countries. Queso fresco is also fairly simple to make at home. As described by Colazzo, the flavor profile, though delicious in its own right, is “relatively static.” But today Puerto Rico is coming into its own and developing a unique cheese identity. Vaca Negra currently produces five different kinds of cheeses, which are all available for purchase on their website.

Ausubal

Photo Credit: Quesos Vaca Negra

This is a firm cheese with balanced flavors that are neither too strong nor too bland. It is best paired with white wines and stout beers.

Cabachuelas

Photo Credit: Quesos Vaca Negra

The flavor is bold and intense with hints of truffles and mushrooms. The crust is aged using a special white fungus. Best paired with a sweet dessert wine.

Capaez

Photo Credit: Quesos Vaca Negra

This yellow cheese is delicately flavored with a buttery aroma. The texture is compact in young cheeses and crumbly in older ones. It goes well with a nice Pinot Noir or a Pilsner beer.

Monserrate

Photo Credit: Quesos Vaca Negra

This crowd-pleasing favorite has a firm consistency and a soft texture. It is best paired with sparkling wines and lager beers.

Montebello 

Photo Credit: Quesos Vaca Negra

While you’re enjoying this cheese’s aromatic spicy overtones, the intense flavor will be deliciously dissolving in your mouth. This type of flavor goes best with Malbec wine or Lambic beers.

Quesos Vaca Negra also offers cheesemaking tours, where you can make your own cheese and bring it home. The informational tour gives great insight on Puerto Rico’s free-range and hormone-free cows, as well as local Health Department standards. And while Hatillo may be out of the way in the Puerto Rican countryside, the workshop is available in Old San Juan. After you complete the tour and workshop, your cheese will age for two months. Then you can either return to take it home or have it shipped to you.

Currently, Vaca Negra’s biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. With only five employees, including Otero, the small producer still manages to create 500–800 pounds of cheese a week. It’s a huge production, especially considering that there are five different types of cheeses being produced. Otero has her hands full as the chief, cook, and bottle washer, but says she’d like to be able to produce even more.

Less than five years old, Quesos Vaca Negra is very young company with a lot of potential to define Puerto Rico’s cheese culture and inspire more innovation. It goes to show that though we consider tradition and history to be such a heavy factor in any type of culture, culture is something that is constantly being challenged and reinvented. In Puerto Rico, we are witnesses to the creation of a rich Puerto Rican cheese culture.

If you would like to see more of Quesos Vaca Negra, check out this photo essay by Kate Arding.

Comment to Win

Do you have a favorite Puerto Rican or Latin American cheese? Tell us what it is in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of culture’s upcoming Best Cheeses of 2014 issue. Post your comments by Monday, October 20, 2014 for a chance to win. You must be located within the continental US to be eligible. Good luck!

Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of Kate Arding

Jamie Ditaranto is a senior at Emerson College and an online editorial intern for culture, who enjoys writing, photography, and travel. She finds a way to sneak cheese into just about every meal and is a sucker for free samples.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style (12 oz) Delivery or Pickup Near Me

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About

Details

Since 1898. Wisconsin cheese.


Ingredients

Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes.


Directions

Serve as an appetizer with fruit, crackers, olives or on salads.

Keep refrigerated.


Warnings

Contains: milk.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1.00 oz

Servings Per Container 12

  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 80
    • Total Fat 6g9%daily value
    • Total FatSaturated Fat 4g20%daily value
    • Total FatTrans Fat 0g
    • Cholesterol 20mg7%daily value
    • Sodium 210mg9%daily value
    • Total Carbohydrate 0g0%daily value
    • Total CarbohydrateDietary Fiber 0g0%daily value
    • Total CarbohydrateSugars 1g
    • Protein 6g

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Details

Since 1898. Wisconsin cheese.


Ingredients

Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes.


Directions

Serve as an appetizer with fruit, crackers, olives or on salads.

Keep refrigerated.


Warnings

Contains: milk.


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Yes, El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style is gluten-free.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style has 80.0 calories.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style has 0.0 carbs.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style has 0.0 grams of sugar.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style has 6.0 grams of fat.

El Viajero Cheese, Fresh, Puerto Rican Style has 210.0 grams of sodium.

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Armenian burrata, Uruguayan parmesan. How restaurants live under the embargo | Food and drinks | Cuisine

For two years we have lived without Italian Parmesan and French Camembert. Life has not stopped, nothing has collapsed, and no one has died. But still, there are still not enough quality cheeses. AiF.ru found out how restaurants live without European cheeses and whether it is possible to replace Italian mozzarella with Russian.

Mikhail Simagin, chef of the Siberia restaurant and Khlebnaya Lavka bakery cafe

“There are not enough quality cheeses and the right prices”

It cannot be said that the ban on cheeses had a strong impact on life or on the restaurant menu as a whole , but certainly on the quality of life. I’m used to working with certain specific cheeses, and we chefs already know the real taste of them. When there were no more cheeses, we went to the markets, started looking for some alternatives, tried to even change the texture of the cheese, mix two different cheeses, if we talk about soft cheeses. I do not see a global problem, since only 15% of our dishes is cheese, we are not a concept restaurant.

They are trying to replace forbidden cheeses, but it is almost impossible to make real French cheese, even come close to its taste. We lack quality cheeses: good mozzarella, burrata, parmesan, we also lack the right prices, everything is very expensive and of dubious quality.

If earlier there were good moldy cheeses in the cheese plate, with washed rind. Now they have simply disappeared, and there is no analogue anywhere for them, and there are no proposals, respectively. They offer sheep cheese, but when it comes to sheep milk, it is not there, which is very strange and raises suspicions about the quality of the product.

Initially, we were not a cheese country, we did not have a culture of consumption, all the cheese was brought from Europe. Progress is observed only in the fact that at least now they have begun to do this, they are trying to do at least something, someone is not very successful, someone is just a little bit.

Many people have learned the technology of cheese making, I think this is already progress. People began to understand that making burrata is not so difficult, they began to try. We still lack knowledge about cheese, we lack our own Russian line of cheeses. There is not enough time, because the cheese has to age, there is not enough demand, we are still not a cheese soul, there are few people who even a little bit understand cheese.

Before the sanctions, there was a huge selection of cheese, there were very cool and worthy cheeses on the cheese plate, then they began to disappear, and I gradually replaced them with others … Not a single guest noticed the disappearance. The same plate, the cheeses change, the guests don’t even notice.

Tried to introduce a plate of Russian cheeses, all cheeses are too salty, monotonous, people don’t eat. If only we had our own history, our own cheeses…

The main problem of our production is milk. We need the right cow, which will eat right, she will be fed right. Of course, we have our own milk, but this is not enough for production! There are other problems as well. Look, we order, for example, Ossetian burrata from the same supplier, a farmer. And every time the burrata comes different: sometimes bitter, sometimes sour, sometimes with a taste of chalk, that is, there is no stability, you always have to try. At the factory, of course, you can get a more stable quality, but the assortment … this is not yet available.

Pavel Galkovsky, brand chef of T-Bone Wine restaurants, host of the steak school at the Khleb-Sol culinary studio

“90% of producers abuse vegetable fats”

Immediately after the ban on European cheeses, there was, of course, , very hard. It was difficult to find something, there are few analogues on the market. Basically, cheeses were supplied from France and Italy.

Then came the cheeses from South America. There are good options there, especially among hard cheeses, good cheeses come from Argentina and Uruguay, well aged. But, of course, they can not be compared with Italian ones. And it is impossible to make real Italian cheese anywhere except Italy. After all, cheese is the climate, the cow, her food…

Our cheeses… Yes, there is activity in the market. Many manufacturers have begun to make analogues of Italian cheeses. The first experiences were terrible! And many still produce these terrible cheeses. Our problem is raw materials. Very little good quality milk. And what is there costs a lot of money. This leads to the second problem: manufacturers are trying to make cheese at the lowest cost, so that they can then sell it for a good price. And most manufacturers reduce the cost of cheeses with vegetable fats. in different proportions. There are even completely plant-based cheeses. I would say that this is 9 percent0 manufacturers are abused. The taste of this cheese is immediately noticeable. Mozzarella, which is made entirely in vegetable fat, simply melts and all the other ingredients float in it. And these cheeses are bought, because consumers are also chasing cheapness.

But I can say that good producers have already appeared this year, small enterprises with very good products. But the price, of course … It is higher than we used to buy France or Italy.

So there are shifts. I just picked up a good cheese plate. The cheeses are good, but when compared with Italian and French cheeses, you will immediately understand that this is not the same cheese.

Victor Apasiev, Brand Chef of Tarantino

“I miss quality Gorgonzola”

We had large stocks of Italian cheeses in the restaurant, and we still rely on them. For example, we have a whole head of “pre-sanctioned” Grana Padano cheese. True, at the very beginning, when the usual cheeses disappeared from the market, we had to remove several items from the menu — for example, burrata cheese. It is perishable and cannot be stockpiled.

At the moment when our main stocks ran out, there were already interesting alternatives on the market. For example, Belarusian and Armenian gorgonzola. We do not use Latin American cheeses. We buy Russian, but very little, such as mozzarella and burrata. We mainly use cheeses from Belarus — we are satisfied with the quality.

I miss good quality gorgonzola. I really liked the gorgonzola piquant — now it has no analogues. All other cheeses are available — Parmesan, Brie, and Grana Padano…

If we talk about cheeses that are produced in Russia, then you need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Too many manufacturers cannot maintain consistent high quality. There are several leading manufacturers, as in any field, but even they have problems.

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