It's easier than you think. Promise. Like most cheese, all it takes is 3 ingredients: Milk, an acid — in this case, white vinegar — and salt. Ready, set....
...WAIT. What is queso fresco? I've talked about it before in greater detail, but it's basically exactly what it means in Spanish: "fresh cheese." Pretty vague, yes, but as you'll discover in its recipe, it doesn't get any fresher than this. From milk to cheese takes less than 15 minutes.
Step 1: Heat the milk.
Start with 2 quarts of the best-quality whole milk you can find. And 1 tablespoon of coarse kosher salt.
Step 2: In a medium saucepan, bring it to a boil, turn the heat to low, and add 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar.
Step 3: Watch and stir. Almost immediately, the milk will separate into curds and whey. If not, add one more tablespoon of vinegar. Continue to stir gently to encourage whey extraction and curd formation.
Step 4: Drain into a cheesecloth-lined colander in the sink. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is cool enough to handle. Form the curds into a ball or disc while squeezing excess whey through the cheesecloth. At this point the cheese is ready to eat, but if you prefer a drier, firmer cheese, you can set it on a plate or a sheet pan with a plate on top of it. Use some kind of weight — cans, pots and pans, or books — to press it down for 15 more minutes or up to a couple of hours.
Step 5: Enjoy. Sprinkle with maldon salt, grate over tacos or enchiladas, or sprinkle into a salad. But beware. This cheese is not a melting cheese, so it's best enjoyed as is, or baked — just as long as you don't need it to become gooey. It's a pleasantly squeaky cheese, almost like fresh cheese curds.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of the Cheese Course at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Related: DIY Recipe: Homemade Paneer Cheese
(Images: Nora Singley)