If you have any sort of decency at all, then you love cheese. And if you’re truly great, you may even be addicted to it (literally). And cheese is a very serious thing; Clifton Fadmian (who?) once aptly described cheese as “milk’s leap towards immortality.” Along with the thousands of varieties of potatoes, the famous broad, purple kernels of Inca corn, and the pet-turned-dinner cuy al horno (guinea pig), the cheeses of Cuzco are found beneath many an adobe-tile home.
Here’s a glance at three cheeses that you may encounter during your travels through the land of the Incas—but as a word of warning: many cheeses are unpasteurized and may disagree with the Western stomach. Slowly introduce yourself to these three options, and you’ll get a taste of the rustic, artisan world of the cheeses of the Cuzco.
1) Classic Andean: This Cuzco classic, aptly named for its presence in the mountainous valleys of the region, is a staple of markets and kitchens with a creamy, firm interior and a hard, plastic-like rind. This mellow milk cheese is known for its versatility as a table cheese and suave melted texture, and is sold in bricks or disks and is aged for three or four months before use. You can find Andean cheese made from pasteurized milk, so it’s a good option for the short visit to Cuzco.
2) Fresh Farmers: Fresh farmers cheese has a soft, spongy texture and is normally produced using unpasteurized, fresh cow’s milk. I wouldn’t recommend diving into this cheese immediately—small nips off of a corner here and there may help build up a tolerance to the leche fresco. Round saline flavors ground the pleasant, mild experience of this cheese, which is often served with warm maize.
3) Mozzarella: Yes, mozzarella! Here’s a little bit of inside information: there’s a mozzarella cheese maker living in the Sacred Valley who supplies the La Cantina Vino Italiano with fresh, creamy, cow’s milk mozzarella. It’s a little gem in a world often starved of good mozzarella, and the authentic Italian owners of the Cantina have managed to maintain the standards of their home country. If you’re looking for a Peruvian twist to an Italian classic, look no further than trying the mozzarella of Cuzco.
Like we’ve mentioned, take it slow and steady as you explore the cheeses of the area. But if you do happen to lose complete control and devour all the cheese in sight, you can’t be blamed: it’s an addiction!
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