When faced with adversity, make cheese.
That’s the story of a young immigrant couple back in the 1970s who began their journey making a life for themselves and their children in the United States. From selling cheese store to store in the back of their green Pontiac, four decades later, Cacique is the largest fresh cheese maker in the country.
In our home and for our blog, we cook with Cacique cheeses and creams quite a bit. So, when Cacique invited us to its plant in La Puente for an immersion event and plant tour along with other blogger ambassadors, we jumped at the opportunity.
And, let me tell you, the de Cardenas family pulled out all the stops. What a beautiful experience and warm gracious hosts they turned out to be.
As we entered their newly renovated corporate kitchen, we started our morning with a delicious treat – yogurt smoothies. You can find these in grocery stores today. Everyone seemed to fall in love with the Pecan with Cereal flavor, but I am more of a traditionalist and loved the rich taste of the strawberry flavor. Cacique has a number of flavors including pineapple and and piña colada.
We settled in at the tables and each of us had our own place settings. Classy! Now, Cacique remains a family-run company. The two children of the owner, Gilbert B. de Cardenas and Ana de Cardenas-Raptis shared the family history.
The father worked as a handyman, but he also knew how to make high quality, fresh cheese, called queso fresco, which according to Cacique, the fresh cheese wasn’t sold in stores at that time.
The father removed the back seat of the car and replaced it with two ice chests where the cheese was sold from store to store. As Gil told the story of his parents’ tenacity, the room fell silent as we understood his pride and felt his love for their sacrifice. Let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The father named his first cheese Queso Fresco Ranchero, after a restaurant in Pasadena that used it, and Cacique was born. The term cacique, in Latin America, means “the chief” or the head of the tribe; the very best or the pinnacle. The name still fits today!
An Introduction to Cheese
Here are a few of the cheeses and their characteristics:
Panela: Crumbly curd style, all-natural fresh cheese, has a mild, milky flavor. When heated it will soften but not get stringy, and it has the magical ability to be seared into a golden slab without getting runny. It crumbles easily and is great to stuff jalapenos.
Cotija: A robust flavored artisan cheese with a dry, crumbly texture, much like Parmesan cheese. It’s used as a topping and can be subbed for Parmesan.
Ranchero Queso Fresco: This signature cheese is mild and buttery, with a fresh milky flavor. It will soften when you heat it, but won’t get stringy, and goes well with spicy flavors and ingredients. Crumble it in your salad!
Four Quesos Blend: In response to consumer demand, Cacique has introduced shredded cheese blends in bags. This blend combines four authentic, Mexican-style cheeses: Manchego, Oaxaca, Quesadilla and Asadero. I found it so much more flavorful than other cheese blends in the market. It’s smooth, buttery, rich and goes well in all sorts of dishes, from enchiladas to omelets, from soups to salads.
Cacique also makes a few fresh creams, called cremas, that home cooks will find useful.
Crema Savadorena: Sour cream that has a hint of cheesy flavor, to be used as a flavor booster
Crema Mexican Agria: Mexican tangy, pourable sour cream that isn’t quite like gelatinous American sour cream
Crema Mexicana: Pourable table cream for both sweet and savory dishes, or in your coffee!
Ranchero Crema Natural: Unsalted sour cream, can be used in any recipe that calls for sour cream.
Ranchero Crema Con Sal: Cultured sour cream with salt; try it on your baked spud.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Cacique Inc. and Society Culinaria. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands we work with and who help LatinoFoodie deliver some of the most delicious content and ideas to you.