Once in awhile, cheese graces the Filipino table. Although not a favorite, the cheese has been part of the Filipino palate particularly during celebrations. The spaghetti that replaced the still famous pancit is always topped with the cheese that can be bought from your favorite supermarket or even retail stores. But aside from the localized version of the cheddar cheese, another locally produced cheese has also took its share on the limelight. The kesong puti or white cheese that originated from Sta. Cruz Laguna is becoming popular to food lovers. In fact, a festival was held every year in Sta Cruz Laguna for this cheese. The Keso Festival that last for nine days was held in honor of this product. To emphasize its market share, an industry for this particular product has mushroomed not only on the Laguna area but also on Bulacan and Samar as well where the main raw materials are sustainable.
Kesong puti can be eaten with different breads, depending on your choice. In Laguna, this is usually served hot pan de sal or bread salt. It has a salty taste and soft texture that reminds you of tofu. And it does looks like a tofu on its square/rectangular form. Although this is usually produced in small scale, it is still of good quality. The UP Los Banos DTRI is one of the producers of this product.
The kesong puti can be produced in two ways, one method requires pasteurization, and the other is simple coagulation. The main ingredient of this cottage cheese is the milk of the water buffalo locally known as Carabao. Although the method is flexible for any other kind of milk like cows, the carabao milk made its distinct flavor. Other ingredients are coagulating agents such as rennet or vinegar, salt to taste and fresh carabao milk. It is also worth mentioning that the coagulant rennet came from either vegetable or lining young carabao’s stomach. And the sour taste that comes with the salty texture is caused by the coagulant used during processing.
The process of making the cheese is basically like this:
1. The fresh milk was removed of impurities and subjected to heating method to kill of bacteria. Slow and constant stirring is needed.
2. Temperature can be raised up to 95 degree Celsius and can be heated for 10 to12 minutes. The rennet or for a cheaper version, vinegar where added for coagulation that takes at least 30 minutes.
3. The curd that forms was salted to taste and put into moulds (which are usually square or circle shaped) and left to cool and form.
The not pasteurized version follows the entire step above except step number one. Unlike other cheese method, kesong puti does not undergo the aging process. The kesong puti can be served right after the production and have a shelf-life of 5 days at room temperature and two weeks if refrigerated.
A good kesong puti have a fresh taste that is neither too salty nor watery. It should be white in color and have no particular odor. The serving, although usually with a pan de sal can also be varied with a wheat bread or French bread. A slight heating of the cheese in a pan for few minutes can give its taste a twist. The sandwich goes well with cold fresh milk that can also be bought in Laguna.