Queso Criollo of Tuni

Ark of taste
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Achocalla is a municipality located in the central-southern part of the department of La Paz, on the Andean plateau, referred to by the locals as Altiplano. Here, at over 4000 meters above sea level, the Tuni community produces a typical cheese, the Queso Criollo, using a technique that dates back to hundreds of years ago and which is still widespread throughout the Andes today, albeit with some small variations.

To prepare Queso Criollo, raw cow’s milk, freshly milked or heated after being refrigerated, is placed in a container with rennet. It sits for 25-30 minutes and then the curd is cut. Then, after about ten minutes, the whole mass is heated again until a more compact mass is obtained, which is broken down into granules.

At this point, the cheesy mass is manually removed from the whey and gradually moved piece by piece into the traditional straw mould called faja, because it resembles a rolled belt (it has no bottom in fact). The faja are woven by hand using the stalks of the grass of the plateau pastures, the “Stipa ichu”, also known as Peruvian feathery grass due to the silver clusters of flowers that open in June and produce soft grey filaments. The fajas rest on a tray of woven straw called “estera”, which also acts as a filter, this is placed over a container where the excess whey is collected.

The curd, is picked up directly by hand, is placed in the faja and pressed lightly by hand to allow the whey to be removed.

We then move on to the salting process: the salt, which is added in variable quantities depending who makes it, is placed on the surface and then gently pressed to make it soak inside.

A little more curd is added and, with the help of a second support made of straw, the form is pressed. After about two hours, the cheese is ready to be eaten.

Queso Criollo is eaten with bread for breakfast or as a snack, and is one of the ingredients of Plato Paceño, a traditional La Paz dish made from corn, potatoes and boiled beans. Another local dish that uses Queso Criollo as one of its ingredients is Queso Humacha, which is also based on corn, beans and potatoes. Here, the cheese is used hot to prepare an accompanying sauce that is enriched with aromatic herbs.

It is traditionally produced by each family using the milk of their animals, for self-consumption or to be exchanged or bartered for other products, today Queso Criollo is marketed only in local markets or through informal channels. As in many other Latin American countries, in fact, as well as in Bolivia, the health legislation requires that milk must be pasteurised: this leaves no room for the production of raw milk cheeses, putting the survival of products that are an expression of the territory and techniques that have been tested over the centuries by local communities at risk.

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Territory

StateBolivia
Region

La Paz

Production area:Alto Chocalla area

Other info

Categories

Milk and milk products

Nominated by:Teresa Gilles de Pelichy