Queso asado en hoja de Caquetá

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Cheese Asado en Hoja de Caquetá

Incorporated into America with the arrival of Christopher Columbus, cheese has a long history and has become an important part of the Colombian culture. Colombia has a wide range of dairy products due to its high milk production. Although there are large-scale producers, there are also small-scale artisans who consider cheese making as a viable alternative for their economic livelihood.

Most of the cheese produced in Colombia comes from cows, but goat and buffalo cheeses have also gained popularity in the national market. One particular cheese that stands out is the Cheese Asado en Hoja from the Caquetá department.

Caquetá is known as the gateway to the Colombian Amazon and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Numerous rivers flow through this region, hosting countless species of insects, fish, and birds. Caquetá has all the elements to enjoy a variety of typical dishes, including the renowned Cheese Asado en Hoja.

Caquetá is an area with a strong focus on cattle farming, making it unsurprising that dairy products play a crucial role in the local economy. Cheese Asado en Hoja is a fresh cheese that is pressed on canvas and made from whole cow's milk, rennet, and salt. The cheese is then placed on leaves from the biket plant, which grows in the American tropics, wrapped, and heated between two hot stones or slabs until golden.

The production of cheese has been an integral part of the daily diet of the Caquetá colonists since their settlements were established. The local ecosystem has led to a dual-purpose cattle breed called "cacheño cacheño," characterized by small but excellent quality milk, high in solids and proteins. This milk is used to produce various types of cheese. In 2011, three of these cheeses (salé haché, quesillo, and double crème) were granted the first Designation of Origin for a cheese in Colombia.

Cheese Asado en Hoja is an iconic product of the entire Caquetá department, with the city of Florence being a hub for peasant cheese production on surrounding farms. However, industrial production techniques are putting traditional processes at risk. For example, chemical coagulants such as rennet are being used. On the other hand, traditional techniques are still employed in small dairy farms for the production of Cheese Asado en Hoja, but the corresponding knowledge is being lost, partly due to the lack of interest among younger generations.

Cheese Asado en Hoja is characterized by its mild and semi-acidic taste, as well as its unique "Chiclosa" texture. It can be enjoyed in various ways, such as with a sandwich or melted in hot chocolate. It is similar to meat fondue. It is also often served with a sweet Latin American delicacy known as "dulce de guayaba," which is prepared with guava paste, sugar cane boards, or refined sugar, wrapped in bijao, nivelle, or banana leaves.

Cheese Asado en Hoja is part of the "Arche de Goût" project by the Slow Food Foundation. This project focuses on the recovery and cataloging of unique food products, races, and artisanal products that are at risk of disappearing. It highlights the intrinsic value of these products, which are deeply rooted in culture, history, and tradition, and encourages their consumption as a means of preserving them as heritage for humanity.

✓ Colombia