Cotija cheese is a delight of Mexican culinary culture. Many of our traditional dishes are accompanied with the aged and salty touch of this cheese. However, there is confusion about its origin. Is it from Jalisco or of Michoacan?
This type of cheese is characterized by its flavor, its consistency -which is very similar to that of feta cheese- and for being made in large pieces.
Cotija cheese tradition
Cotija cheese has been made since the 16th centurybehind the Spanish conquest that allowed the proliferation of cattle, until today. It is a tradition that covers the Sierra border region of Michoacan and Jalisco.
The manufacturing process of this type of cheese is one of the qualities that make it a unique product. Its manufacture is done by hand with three ingredients: cow’s milk, rennet and salt.
It is important to note that to achieve the properties of the authentic cotija cheese, milk does not go through pasteurization processes.
In addition, the type of cattle that gives milk must be free grazing and of native breeds: the zebu or the Swiss brown.
It is said that during the rainy season, families settled in milking outside the villages. During this season (which runs from July to October), the cattle eat enough and give a lot of milk.
However, ranchers faced some problems:
- The preservation of your product.
- They could not sell it because the flooding of the rivers prevented them from returning to the towns.
That is why they decided to make the big pieces of cheese that are preserved with salt. For aging, the pieces were placed on a kind of shelf. Subsequently, they were turned over in certain periods of time, thus avoiding the formation of worms.
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After a few months of storage, the cheese was cleaned and people offered their product in the towns of Jalisco and Michoacán.
Are you from Michoacán or Jalisco?
It is by virtue of its name that it is thought that cotija cheese originates from the Michoacan municipality of Cotija de la Paz.
However, there are some producers who affirm that the true origin was in Jilotlán de los Dolores, in Jalisco. According to the ranchers, this cheese was only sent to Cotija, as it is a region that has direct contact -in commercial terms- with Mexico City.
On the other hand, the Mexican government recognizes that there are several municipalities that traditionally make cotija cheese:
- Santa Maria del Oro.
- Jilotlán de los Dolores.
- Diaz Encarnacion.
- Juarez Valley.
- Cotija of Peace.
- Buenavista Tomatlan.
What is your favorite dish to accompany with this type of cheese?