When the Spanish came to Central America, they brought with them cattle for meat and milk. With the milk, they used their cheese making knowledge to introduce it to the native population. Before then, the people didn’t make cheese, but thanks to the Spanish, Mexican cuisine and Latin fusion dining has gained an important ingredient.
Cotija may be the most well known of Mexican cheeses. It is produced from cow milk and is named after Cotija, a town in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Like all cheeses, depending on where and by whom it is made can produce variations. There are two prevalent forms of Cotija.
The first is El Queso Cotija de Montana, which is literally translated to “cheese of the mountains” due to the region that it is made. Obviously, that would be in the mountains. It is only made between July and October making it a little more difficult to find. As far as taste goes, it doesn’t have a strong flavor other than salt. It has several times more salt in it than the average cheese and that is for preservation purposes. Texturally, it is grainy and has a consistency a bit like feta cheese, but dryer and firmer.
Tajo is the other form. It contains more moisture and fat, yet far less salt than its mountain made relative. Other than that, it is still firm and maintains its form when cut. When heated, Cotija doesn’t melt like other cheeses making it a great cheese for Latin fusion dining as it can be crumbled on top of a dish to add flavor and texture due to its grainy nature. These cheeses can generally be bought in a variety of sizes from massive 62 pound cylinders all the way down to pre-crumbled or grated packages