The vast majority of artisan cheese is made in Europe and the United States; last year, the two regions produced 81.7% of the world’s cheese. But while the rest of the world may contribute less in terms of quantity, some unexpected countries are currently playing integral roles in the global artisan cheese renaissance. This series profiles a few of these nations and celebrates the dairies that are putting their countries on the (cheese) map. Find part one, on the cheese of India, here, and part two, on the cheeses of Japan, here.
In the United States, the phrase “Mexican cheese” suffers from many false perceptions. It brings to mind the mass-produced, pre-shredded taco-topping bags commonly found in the processed cheese aisle of the supermarket, all of which are made in America (not Mexico!). Secondly, many Americans assume that because of a few cases of food contamination found in Mexican cheeses over the past ten years, all cheeses from Mexico must be of questionable quality, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In addition, a ton of people think that Mexicans only make fresh, cow’s milk cheeses – like queso fresco – while in fact, there are a plethora of distinct regional Mexican cheeses made from all types of milk.
One problem with getting the word out about Mexican cheeses is that many of these small sub-varieties are virtually unknown outside of the country. Because Mexico doesn’t have a “protected designation of origin” label (like Europe) that ensures the specificity and quality of artisanal regional products, it’s difficult to consistently classify Mexican cheeses. However, there is a small Mexican artisanal cheesemaking scene that is working to change that.
One dairy that is making waves is Rancho San Josemaría, a relatively young farm (founded in 2007) that is located in Querétaro. Working exclusively with sheep’s milk, they produce a wide variety of cheeses but are best known for their unbelievably smooth Queso…