Sunday, July 13, 2008

How to Make Paraguayan Cheese 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - So yesterday was our fourth Dia de Practica (Day of Practice), in which we go out into the community and learn about different people's activities. My friend Paulette and I have been going to the farm of Don Blasido, a local dairy and sugar cane farmer. While he mainly specializes in sugar cane, at one point he kept even more cows and sold milk, but currently keeps them mainly for autoconsumption and the dairy products they still sell. On the farm they also have pigs, chickens, yuca, several types of squash and root veggies, citrus trees, and his sister next door has tomatoes.

The first few times we went over there, we pretty much hung out with the women of the family. The time before this most recent time was our most productive; we helped clean and peel yuca for their lunch, and one of the grandmothers who had just flown in from Argentina taught us how to play quince (pronounced KEEN-say, Spanish for 15), a popular card game. The main folks on the farm a Don Blasido, who kind of reminds me of my grandfather, Na Dora (his wife), Noelia (his neice, age 24 but she looks about 30) and her two sons (Blasito, 4, and the younger one that I refer to as Chiquitito, 16 months), and Angela (the daughter-in-law, maybe late 30's?) and her two sons (the younger one is 4 or 5 and the older one, Matias, is 12). We spend most of our time with Angela and Noelia in the the cooking area, which is the center of their family life. Angela is definitely the sharpest tack in the bunch, while Noelia is, not so much. Nevertheless, they're great folks.

So the last time we were there, Angela said that she would show us how to make cheese the next time, which we definitely able to do yesterday. I learned how to make it in the traditional Paraguayan style, using the cuajo (say it with me, KWAH-ho), which is the stomach lining of the cow. You start with the milk - since it had been in the fridge since the day before, Angela first heated it until is was warm, approximately 90-something degrees. I then put in the cuajo, swirled it around for a bit and then put it back in the bucket in its bath of sour orange jouice and salt to preserve it. She also said that after you take it from the cow you have to stretch it on a stick and dry it in the sun so it lasts longer. She then showed how you kind of press the cheese around in the pot as the curds form, which Paulette and I both did. After you pour the liquid residue, known as the suero (SWEH-ro), out of the pot. The suero is excellent sustenance for both pigs and dogs. You let the remaining curd sit for awhile, then put it in a colander or cheese mold and press out the rest of the water. After the liquid is pressed out it's ready to eat. The finished product was good, but I prefer the drier, more aged cheese. How y'all like my new skill??? I will be impressing the folks in my site in no time...Real country living boy I tell you, I love it.

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