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The Art and Science of Cheese at Cacique

Cacique, the authentic Hispanic-style cheese company, produces cheeses and other products that are rich in both flavor and family history. We recently spent a day with other food bloggers at the Cacique headquarters just outside of Los Angeles and, after being immersed in all things Cacique, we came back even more inspired to work with these beautiful and flavorful products. We can’t wait to share all that we’ve learned about Cacique and give you some ideas about how to incorporate Cacique into your everyday meals.

cacique cheese display

First, the back story: In the early 1970s, a young Gilbert de Cardenas immigrated from Latin America with his family and sought to make a life in America. Though he worked as a handyman, he saw a market for the authentic cheeses that he knew and loved from home. With life savings of $1,500, and with old-world knowledge of cheese-making, he launched a cheese-making company called Cacique (a name signifying the chief of a tribe, or the pinnacle of experience). In its humble beginnings, the senior de Cardenas would sell the cheese from door to door in a teal-green 1996 Pontiac. Fast-forward four decades, and years of hard work, Cacique is now the largest fresh cheese company in the United States, with facilities and distribution centers located across the country.

Cacique's Gil de Cardenas

Cacique’s Gil de Cardenas

“It’s a lot of work, and there are a lot of people,” says Gil de Cardenas, the son of the founder, surrounded by his siblings and longtime employees. “But it really is a labor of love.”

Cacique cheese is made with simple, authentic ingredients; just milk, sea salt, and enzymes. Plus it’s made fresh in the blink of an eye: It takes only two to four days to get from the cow (milk) to the store (finished cheese product). “Nothing can be fresher than that,” says Enrique Botello, Cacique’s director of marketing. “We have quality you can taste.”

cacique cheeses

Cheesemaking is both an art and a science, explained Botello. And although you have just those three or four simple ingredients, you could change the process ever so slightly and wind up with a different kind of cheese. Botello then led us through the most popular Cacique cheeses that many American customers may know by sight, but perhaps might not have used before:

Ranchero Queso Fresco: A high-moisture fresh cheese that can be crumbled, sliced, or cubed. It has a milky, buttery taste and it does not melt so it is a good cheese if you need it to hold its shape.

Panela Queso Fresco: A high-moisture fresh cheese with a slight tang. It is less crumbly than the queso fresco, so it is often served in strips or cubes. Panela has a soft melt and is a great frying cheese or good for stuffing jalapenos.

Queso Oaxaca: A high-moisture melting cheese that comes in the form of a long rope and pulls apart in strings. (A whole Queso Oaxaca is like a giant knot that can be “untied” by unraveling the strings.) It is very similar to mozzarella but it is more buttery in flavor.

Botello demonstrates how to pull apart the strings on the Oaxaca cheese

Botello demonstrates how to pull apart the strings on the Oaxaca cheese

Queso Cotija: An aged cheese, also known as the “Parmesan of Mexico.” It has a very robust flavor and crumbly texture. Some people use Cotija as a substitute for salt on savory foods.

There are also quite a few creams that should be a regular part of your kitchen repertoire:

Crema Mexicana: A fresh, pourable table cream. It is neither salty nor sour and can be used on both sweet and savory dishes; or even as a cream substitute in coffee. It has the perfect consistency for pouring or drizzling.

Crema Mexicana Agria: Authentic Mexican “sour” cream that is also pourable. It is thick but not gelatin-like, unlike what most Americans think of when they think sour cream.

Crema Salvadorena: Another sour cream with a cheesy note to it; the perfect topping cream.

And of course where there is cheese and cream there is also yogurt (we highly recommend Cacique’s mango yogurt smoothie) and horchata.

cacique yogurt

So what can you make with all of these amazing fresh dairy products? We’ve already shown you some Panela Black Bean Quinoa Burritos and some Brazilian Cheese Puffs, and our food blogging friends have even more great ideas for you on the Cacique blog.

Cacique products are available at a large number of major grocery chains nationwide (we found ours at Ralph’s, the local Safeway equivalent). To find products near you, check out the Store Locator. We guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the mild, smooth creaminess of these dairy products, and the freshness that you can taste in every mouthful.

Blogger disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Cacique Inc. and Society Culinaria. I only work with products I love and fully endorse. All opinions are my own.

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