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Quesillo Cheese

Otilio Santiago Cruz has balls, cheese balls, that is. And they're famous. His 311-kilo (685 lbs) quesillo cheese ball once set the Guinness World Record for the largest amount of quesillo ever put together.

Cruz and 29 other families from the town of Reyes, Etla (30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City) produce quesillo, a popular string cheese similar to mozzarella, which they sell in local markets and eating estbalishments. Oaxacans, young and old, daily devour this mildly salty, white cheese. Quesillo can be chopped into chunks, for  an appetizer, or melted into a variety of main dishes.

Legend has it that, over a century ago, a young girl from Reyes invented the cheese by mistake. She disobeyed her mother and allowed their cheese curds to expand into a spongy mess. In an attempt to correct her mistake, she poured boiling water over the curds, kneaded it, and pulled it into the first strip of quesillo.

Today, food lovers from around the world demand more quesillo than the slender cows dotting the Etla Valley landscape can produce. These hard-working cow have to pump out ten liters of milk for every kilo of cheese. Once the milk has fermented and hot water has been added, Otilio and his colleagues painstakingly pull the mixture into long strands, salt each strip, and hand-wrap the finished products into tight, woven balls.

While competing cheese manufacturers have more access to materials, markets and technology, the century-old techniques used by Otilio and friends continued to be valued by connoisseurs. Experts know that the best quesadillas, tortas, and empanadas are filled with authentic Reyes quesillo.

 

 










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