Attention Locavores: Real Oaxacan Cheese Made in Brooklyn
Porcelain-white Oaxacan cheese -- used all over Mexico, and indispensable to such signature recipes as chile relleno and queso fundido -- was prohibitively expensive not too long ago, costing as much as $10 for a 14-ounce baseball in some bodegas, and not carried at all in others.
Queso Oaxaca or Quesillo Oaxaca is one of Mexico's most respected and utilitarian cheeses, a cousin of mozzarella that's pulled into thick ropes and then braided into a ball. It's much firmer than fresh mozzarella, clean-tasting and a little on the salty side, which makes it perfect for use in melting contexts without further salt or other seasoning. The salting, of course, enhances shelf-life in an area with few refrigerators (that's southern Mexico, not Brooklyn).
For the last few years, the cheese has been made in an obscure corner of Windsor Terrace at the end of Fort Hamilton Parkway, in a quiet neighborhood that even few Brooklynites have set foot in. You can buy it freshly made -- along with a couple of other cheeses, depending on time of the year -- in the office in front. Through a door can be seen a handful of workers curdling the milk, roping the cheese, and forming the finished product into balls. The cost: only $4 for a 14-ounce ball, enough to lavishly stuff a half-dozen poblano peppers.
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