Cheese Smugglers!

photo by John Vachon

My friend Jazmin, who is from rural Guerrero, complains that she can never find really good cheese in the U.S. By really good cheese she means the fresh cheese she grew up eating on the rancho. Evidently she’s not alone in her longing: officials along the U.S./Mexico border are busy nabbing cheese smugglers. According to The Alpine Avalanche, CBP officers assessed $6,097.84 in penalties in 21 incidents. Mostly it sounds like the “criminals” are people returning to the U.S. after holiday visits home to Mexico.

The article sets me to daydreaming of pristine rounds of queso ranchero wrapped in lush banana leaves, and I can’t help but be sympathetic to the plight of the beleaguered cheese smuggler. Returning to the U.S. is always depressing, but I can imagine that some elicit queso fresco would go a long way toward cheering me up.

5 Responses to “Cheese Smugglers!”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. -El Codo- says:

    In 201o on a flight from Zihuatanejo to LAX, I brought and declared “Five kilos of hard cheese” from Las Peñas bound for Oakland, CA. The US Customs inspector declared “Hard cheese is not restricted” and let me pass. Specifically queso de rancho is among those soft cheeses not allowed, because it specifically is uncooked. Hope this helps.

  2. Churpa says:

    Well next time I have five kilos of hard cheese tucked away in my handbag, I will remember I needn’t bother with a customs declaration…Who were these lucky cheese recipients?

  3. -El Codo- says:

    La família Barragán in Oakland California. Turned out Brenda sent an extra kilo just for me. Brenda’s tio who lives on the banks of the rio chuta in Michoacán is regionally famous for his cheese. Outrageous with Jicama and salsa casera. Too bad I couldn’t get my hands on the last two items in the states. If anyone drives through Las Peñas on Mex 200 without going down to the beach and then heading to the very furthest enramada has lost out big time. Brenda plays the part of cocinara while Jesús her husband gathers lobster, oysters as large as a teacup saucer, and fish, mostly huauchinángo.

    I would not purchase queso de rancho from someone (like a wandering vendor) I did not get a referral to from a local Mexican resident. It is uncooked therefore unsterilized milk. Not common at all to come across infected milk but the consequences outweigh the odds. The best queso cotija I’ve ever tasted comes from a ambulatory cart vendor in front of the barber shop (peluqueria) in La Mira, Michoacan (also on Mex 200 the coast highway). For carnivores, the lady at the cart sells chorizo that is also famous.

    México is slowly wakening to the fact that it can produce “world class” cheese. I’ll bet in the next ten years custom fabricators are going to start turning out gourmet cheeses that rival anything found in Europe (or Wisconsin). Mexican varietal wines from the Guadalupe valley in Baja California are neck and neck with the best of Napa Valley. Surprise! The Guadalupe area also turns out world class olive oil, in my opinion on par with the very best from Tuscany. I paid the equivalent of nine dollars in pesos for a liter. Also purchased a liter of cabernet sauvignon vinegar.

    It’s difficult to stay on a diet down here. What am I saying….it is impossible to stay on a diet down here!

  4. churpa says:

    Codo, you are boggling my mind with the number of delicious things mentioned in your comment.

  5. Woah this weblog is great i really like studying your articles. Stay up the good paintings! You already know, many individuals are searching round for this information, you can help them greatly.