Queso fresco is an easy to make fresh cheese that is often confused with queso blanco. The difference is that queso blanco doesn't melt well, and queso fresco does.
Use queso fresco on Mexican dishes, of course, but also on pizza, in omelets, and anywhere else a mild crumbled or melted cheese is needed.
- 1 gallon whole milk
- 1 teaspoon liquid rennet OR 1 rennet tablet
- 1 teaspoon medium grain salt (such as kosher)
Queso fresco can be crumbled over salads and other dishes, or melted into gooey goodness in burritos and omelets. Although often confused with queso blanco, it is a completely different ingredient to work with in the kitchen.
True queso fresco is curdled with rennet, whereas queso blanco is curdled with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. The result is very similar if used uncooked, but completely different once heated.
Queso fresco melts beautifully, whereas queso blanco and its cousin paneer merely soften when heated.
It's best to use stainless steel or heatproof glass for cheesemaking. Although it isn't necessary to sterilize the equipment for making queso fresco, it should be scrupulously clean.
- Slowly heat 1 gallon of whole milk over low heat until it reaches 100F/38C.
- Stir in 1 teaspoon liquid rennet. If your rennet is in tablet rather than liquid form, crush one of the tablets and then mix it into 2 tablespoons of water. Stir the water-rennet mixture into the milk. Leave the mixture in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours until the milk congeals into a custardy mass.
Ideally, you should maintain that 100F/38C temperature during this time. You can accomplish that by placing the pot in an oven with either the pilot light on or the viewing light on (but the oven off), or by placing the pot in a sink of warm water.
- You could use a knife for this step, but best is to use your clean fingers. Break the mass of curd up until it is about the size of peas. Pour the curd into a colander lined with cheesecloth and let the whey (the liquid that separated from the solids while you were breaking up the curd) drain away for 20 - 30 minutes.
- Transfer the drained curds to a mixing bowl and use your clean fingers or a spoon to work in 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Put the salted curds into a cheesecloth or butter muslin lined cheese mold or colander that you have placed in a large bowl or in a sink. Tie the cloth tightly around the queso fresco. Let the cheese drain for an hour or more: it should be fairly firm. Unwrap the queso fresco and refrigerate it for one hour before using.
Store queso fresco in covered food storage containers in the refrigerator. It is best used within a week but will keep for up to three weeks.
Note: Rennet is available from home cheesemaking suppliers.