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January 21, 2015

Queso fresca

 Making Queso Fresca

We start by heating a gallon of whole milk in a pot, stirring more or less constantly, and watching the temperature on my thermometer. It's easy to scorch the milk at this stage, which will give your cheese an acrid, bitter flavor, so use a heavy-bottomed pot if possible and stir gently and constantly.
When the milk has reached anywhere from 165°F to 185°F, I take it off the heat. 

Next, add the acid. We used lemon juice, but vinegar would also work in its place—it all comes down to the kind of flavor you're looking for. Lemon juice will add a citrus tang to the cheese, whereas distilled vinegar will leave you with a more neutral flavor.
Working one tablespoon at a time and stirring gently after each addition, we continue pouring in the acid until the curds separate from the whey. It will look like soft, curly white clumps suspended in a clearish liquid, and it will be sudden. 

Once they've separated, take a break. Let the pot sit uncovered for at least five minutes and up to 20 minutes to complete the separation process.
Ladle the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander.
Allow the curds to strain for a good 20 minutes for pressed cheese, or a full hour for fresh curds. To salt the cheese, sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of salt over the curds and gently stir it in.
For pressed cheese, gather the curds into a ball in the middle of your cheesecloth and press them into a hockey-puck shape.
Then, tie the cloth around the cheese, place bound cheese back into the colander, and put some kind of weight on top— like use a small plate weighed down by a large mason jar of water, but several cans of food would work, or really anything that weighs a few pounds.
Let your set-up rest for an hour and a half, or until the cheese has reached your preferred texture—the longer you wait, the firmer it will get. It'll keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, but it's best used right away.

It turned out pretty tasty. So good with anything mexican or Latin inspired. 

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