Saturday, April 24, 2010

Curds and Whey in Los Potrerillos April 2010

 Over the mountains, and behind my village of Jocotepec,
lies a tiny dusty village of 5000 enterprising souls
called Los Potrerillos.

There are millions of these little towns in Mexico,
most never grace the maps.

Main St.
Looks like there's not much going on here,
but wait, there's something going on everywhere!
One must dig.

Like every pueblo, there's a pretty little church.

And like every little pueblo, there's a bullring.
Horses, mules, and burros are the main mode of
transportation in this pueblo, every family owns
one or more, but alas, only a quarter of the families
own a car.  My kind of town!

And a pretty plaza.
If it looks a bit uninhabited,
that is because it was hot and at least half of
the townspeople are in the US working.

But my story doesn't end here.
Remember I said you have to dig?
That's where the stories are,
under the surface — some deeper than others.

I knew there was a family here, 
making queso fresco (fresh cheese) for 3 generations.
I went to find them.

Instantly, a group of men materialized, one of which was fluent
in English and lives in California, but is home to tend
to his mother who is preparing to pass.

My timing was perfect.

Come in!  !Pasale, Señora!
We will be making cheese in 30 minutes.

We pushed in through the dark grocery, then the house, 
into the kitchen of 
Sr. Ramon de la Torre del Toro
and la Sra. Delia Martinez del Toro.

My self-appointed English speaking host
was Delia's cousin Sr. Heriberto Martinez.
Yes, everyone in Los Potrerillos is related,
descendants of the original 15 families,
having begun their ancestries in the
Hacienda of the same name in the 1600s.

The boys.


The star of the show, Ramon, and the cheese making
equipment that has been used for 45 years.

They could not have been more hospitable!
Or, maybe it was the cervezas. . .

Here we go. . .

 While particles of dried cow intestines soak
in a vat of milk encouraging coagulation,
Ramon prepares the cheesecloth bag.

Then the fresh milk is ladled into the bag
and the curds are collected.

The bag is massaged and squeezed to release every drop of milk.

Until the bag is full.

The curds are pressed into molds and left
to sit for about 10 minutes.

I was presented a sampling.
It was incredibly good!

So, from this. . .

to this. . .

about an hour.
Not counting the cervezas, razzing, and laughing.

If you live locally and would like to visit Ramon and Delia
and pick up some cheese,
just drive to the plaza and park, walk through
the plaza one block and make a left.
You will find them mid block, right side,
(Independencia #10)
and they will be delighted to meet you.
Alternatively, ask anyone where
you can find them.

The smaller wheels of cheese are 40 pesos
or about $3.25 US.
The larger blocks (shown) are 100 pesos and are 1 kilo.
About 8 bucks.
You won't be disappointed!

I left amid copious adioses and
que le vaya biens (have a nice day),
and accepted Heriberto's invitation
to return with my friends so he can take us
on his horses into the mountains for
a fine fiesta.

I can't wait!


  1. Wow - what an interesting story! I have often wondered how they make that cheese. If I ever make it over that way I'd love to see this myself. Maybe someday.

  2. What an amazing story and day that you just shared. You would look far, far and wide to experience something like this in the states. Thanks so much for writing of it.

  3. Wow, you sure have a way of finding fabulous things! This is a wonderful portrait of your new friends and their work!

  4. Leah - If you get here, I'll take you over to meet them. You'll enjoy it.

    Steve - It is a sweet little church, isn't it. I didn't go in, la señora emptying the garbage was tending the church and quite protective.

    Michael - Thanks for the kind words! One of the reasons we wouldn't find this kind of operation in the states is that the cheese is not pasteurized. Aren't there LAWS against that in the states? Thereby taking cheese- making out of the house and into factories. Also in the states all the equipment would have been stainless steel. No wooden trough.

    C and G - Thank you. This is my most favorite thing to do in the whole world! They were really nice people, looking forward to seeing them again.

  5. Really enjoy your visits to the small pueblos. A cerveza or 2 always helps. Every trip I've taken the best memories are from connecting with the local folks.

    Hmmm, the cheese maybe not so much. If I saw it in a store or got it at a restaurant I'd have no problem. Maybe it's like visiting a slaughter house?