Fresh Cheeses/

Oaxacan String Cheese

Servings: 35-ounce balls of cheese


  • 2-3teaspoons citric acid
  • 1gallon whole milk (the fresher and less pasteurized, the better)
  • 1/2cup buttermilk
  • 1/4teaspoon liquid animal or vegetable rennet
  • salt


  1. Measuring the milk’s pH. In a small bowl, dissolve the citric acid in ¼ cup water. In a medium-large (4- to 6-quart) heavy pot, stir together the milk and buttermilk. Using an electric pH meter or pH test strips to monitor the milk’s level, add the citric acid mixture to the milk 1 teaspoon at a time until the milk reaches a pH of 5.8.
  2. Adding the rennet. Heat the milk over medium-low until it reaches 90 degrees. Add the rennet and stir well. Let the milk mixture rest, covered, at room temperature for about an hour, until the milk forms a large, soft curd.
  3. Breaking up the curds. Rake your fingers gently through the curd to break it up. Set the pot over medium heat and continue to slowly stir the curds with your hands, breaking them up further, until the milk reaches 105 degrees.
  4. Straining the cheese. Use a skimmer or large spoon to transfer the curds to a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a large bowl. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and gently squeeze the cheese, pressing out the remaining whey from the loose curds, until it resembles dry cottage cheese. Shape the curds into a rough disk, recover with the cheesecloth and let sit at room temperature overnight.
  5. Rolling the cheese. Fill a large bowl with very hot water. Break off a third of the curd and slide it into the water. With thick kitchen gloves—or a double set of rubber gloves—on your hands, move the curd gently back and forth through the water. As the edges soften, you can start to knead the cheese a little as well. When it’s soft enough to shape, remove the cheese from the water and stretch, pull and shape it into a long, thin strip, about ¼ inch thick and 1 inch wide.  Sprinkle the cheese generously with salt (you’ll want to use about 2 teaspoons total), let it rest for a few moments to cool off and begin to roll the curd into a ball, shaping it as you would a ball of twine. Repeat the process twice with the remaining curd. Place the quesillo on a plate and keep covered in the refrigerator overnight to firm up.