I ate my first guanabana (finally I know what a soursop is) and it was glorious;
Saw Orion's scabbard for the first time and the Southern Cross;
Heard my first screech owl (more of a cooer than a screecher, it turns out);
Picked a grapefruit off a tree for the first time, and had it for breakfast;
And finally tried requesón, something Joanie had promised to teach me to make for ages.
Those of you who think etymologically probably have already guessed that requesón is a kissing cousin of ricotta. And I suppose you could say that both are fresh cheeses made of milk. But requesón has a tropical character, curdled with Seville orange juice (also known as bitter or sour orange) and speckled with orange peel, its curds loose and creamy. Puerto Ricans eat requesón on crackers with guava paste, which is delicious, but I liked it even better spread on hearty whole-grain bread, topped with orange marmalade, the chunks of orange peel glistening in the faintly bitter jelly.
It's easy as can be - the hardest part is sourcing Seville oranges for juicing. (Alejandra says to look in Latin markets and grocers for them, under naranja agria, and if you're not able to find them, to use a mixture of lemon and orange juice - grapefruit is too floral.) You simply scald whole milk in a pot, then turn off the heat and add a cup of Seville orange juice and the grated peel of a regular orange (this can be to taste, you could just do the peel of half an orange). Then you pour the curdling, hot milk through a cheesecloth draped over an empty pot. The whey drains off while the requesón slowly appears, firming up as more and more liquid drips off.
Some people like their requesón moist and loose, and some like it dryer and firm - simply remove the cheese from the cheesecloth when you think it's the consistency that appeals to you. The cheese will continue to firm up in the fridge and over time, but you can always keep a bit of the whey on hand to mix into the cheese to moisten it. (Also, turns out leftover requesón whey is wonderful when baked into bread.)
When your requesón is ready, turn it into a serving bowl and salt it - just a bit - to taste. You need the salt to balance the flavors. Then refrigerate it until you're ready to eat it, most likely the next morning for breakfast.
Creamy and citrusy, but in the faintest, most agreeable way, it makes a gorgeous breakfast, as I said, spread on nice bread and topped with orange marmalade, if you're really digging the citrus, or with guava paste, if you'd prefer a smoother, sweeter counterbalance. It makes a very nice afternoon snack, too, and people lacking sweet teeth would probably enjoy this even without the jammy accompaniment. I know I did.
I was all blue after leaving Puerto Rico, its balmy 89 degrees, and my lovely friends to return to a freezing cold New York, but nothing could have cheered me up quicker than being listed in the Times of London's round-up of the world's best food blogs and featured in this companion article. I'm in some pretty inspiring company. Have a read!
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup sour orange juice, freshly squeezed
Grated peel from 1 regular orange
Salt to taste
1. Scald the milk in a heavy pot over medium heat. While the milk is heating, lay a cheesecloth over an empty pot for draining.
2. When the milk is about to boil, turn off the heat and add the orange juice and peel. Mix briefly. The milk will immediately start to curdle. Slowly pour the milk into the cheesecloth. Drain the requeson for about half an hour, or longer, depending on the desired consistency of the cheese.
3. Scoop the requeson into a container, season with salt to taste, let cool if not yet at room temperature, and refrigerate.