Queso fresco cheese is a creamy fresh (un-aged) cheese, typically made from cow or goat's milk. It's not always easily available for purchase north of the equator, however, as it's not a mainstay of the North American diet. But it's so easy to make at home, there's no reason to buy it.
This type of cheese is made from warmed milk that is curdled with an acid. There's no need for rennet or other ingredients–vinegar or lemon juice will do the trick. Once the curds form, the whey is strained away and the curds can be pressed into a firmer cheese, or used in a creamy, spreadable form. (Technically, in some places, queso fresco is prepared with rennet, and queso blanco is the term for this cheese that is made with acid).
One advantage of making this cheese yourself is that you can control its texture. Queso fresco curds can be "pressed" into a firmer cheese that can be sliced, crumbled, and even fried (this cheese does not "melt"). Or you can simply strain it with cheesecloth and enjoy a creamier, more spreadable texture. Queso fresco is enjoyed on everything from arepas to potatoes to plantains and is even used in sauces and baked goods.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 to 5 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or distilled white vinegar)
Gather the ingredients.
In a large pot, combine the milk, whipping cream, buttermilk, and salt. Stir over medium heat until the temperature reaches 190 F (or nearly a boil). Remove from heat.
Stir in the vinegar, one tablespoon at a time. Small curds will begin to form. Stir gently for 5 minutes or so, then let the mixture cool for 10 more minutes.
Line a large colander with 2 to 3 layers of cheesecloth. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the colander, letting the whey (clear liquid) drain away into a bowl.
When most of the whey has drained off and the cheese is cool enough to handle, lift the edges of the cheesecloth up and twist, wrapping the cheese securely inside the cheesecloth. Squeeze off excess whey.
Hang the cheesecloth "bag" over the sink (use a clip to hang it from the faucet, for example) and let the whey drain for about an hour.
Once the cheese is well-drained, store the cheese in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can press the curds by following the instructions below.
How to Press Curds for Firmer, Molded Cheese
Once the cheese curds are well drained, place a ring mold (or clean, empty metal can with both lids removed) on a baking sheet or flat dish. Spoon curds inside of the ring.
Cover the curds with a piece of wax paper, then use another can or something heavy to press down on them. Place the cheese in the refrigerator and press for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.
Remove from the mold and wrap cheese with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container.
- You can save the whey and use it in baked goods, in place of buttermilk or yogurt.
- When molding the cheese, use a heavy object that will just fit inside the ring or can. One solution is to cut a circle of heavy cardboard that is just smaller than the ring's circumference. Place the cardboard circle on top of the wax paper to evenly distribute the weight, then use an object like a smaller can to provide the weight on top.
- Store cheese for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.