For cheese lovers around the world, Queso Oaxaca is a special treat. Although no longer isolated to the state, the cheese is named for the place in which it was first made. Some cheese connoisseurs may detect a similarity to un-aged Monterey Jack, but combined with a string cheese-like texture. This is the result of the complex production process, in which the cheese is stretched into ribbons and rolled up into a ball. The cheese is often sold in bricks, known as asadero or queso quesadilla, to make it easier to slice.This particular cheese can be found in a number of Mexican staples, including quesadillas and empanadas. In fact, in most areas of Mexico, a quesadilla general means Oaxaca cheese cooked in a folded corn tortilla, generally with green or red sauce, chopped onion, and/or acified cream on top. Huitlacoche, also known as corn smut, is a common filling for both quesadillas and empanadas (a type of stuffed dough pastry eaten as either a dessert or breakfast dish).Another common snack food made with Oaxaca cheese is the tlayuda, a partially-fried or toasted tortilla covered with refried beans, pork lard, lettuce/cabbage, avocado, chapulines, meat, salsa, and, of course, cheese. Tlayudas are a specialty in Oaxaca, especially in Oaxaca City, but can also be found in Mexico City, Puebla, or Guadalajara.Two cheeses in Mexico are protected by law to keep them from disappearing: Cotija and queso de bola. Unfortunately, Oaxaca cheese production was established outside of Oaxaca before the state could apply for its legal protection. However, the special cheeses of Mexico are still supported in other ways (besides their popularity in dishes). Queretaro’s national wine and cheese festival, Feria Nacional del Queso y el Vino, is held annually at the end of May and beginning of June. Although the event nominally celebrates the cheeses of Tequisquiapan, cheeses from other parts of Mexico are also invited to join the festivities.

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