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¡Bienvenidos á Puerto Rico!

¡Bienvenidos á Puerto Rico!

We travelled to the tropics this summer in search of cheesemakers and we found Quesos Vaca Negra, a company started by two women, Wanda Otero and Rosa Avalo, who pioneered the making of aged raw milk cheese in Puerto Rico. Follow our trail from Rafy Lopez’s dairy farm, where Wanda and Rosa source Brown Swiss milk for their cheeses, to the creamery, to the caves, and finally to the farmers’ market in Old San Juan. We threw in a few extra scenery shots as well, since everything we looked at was stunning!

Farmer Rafy Lopez with his Brown Swiss cows

Farmer Rafy Lopez with his Brown Swiss cows

Rafy’s wife made this entire mosaic by hand, and it now graces the top of the barn

Rafy’s wife made this entire mosaic by hand, and it now graces the top of the barn

Rafy in the holding pen

Rafy in the holding pen

What milking looks like

What milking looks like

Quesos Vaca Negra getting ready to fill their bulk tank with fresh milk

Quesos Vaca Negra getting ready to fill their bulk tank with fresh milk

Wanda pumping the milk directly from the milking parlor

Wanda pumping the milk directly from the milking parlor

Rafy and his family

Rafy and his family

Back at the creamery, Rosa monitors the tank as it fills with milk from the truck

Back at the creamery, Rosa monitors the tank as it fills with milk from the truck

A closer look at the milk as it fills the tank

A closer look at the milk as it fills the tank

Adding the cultures to the milk

Adding the cultures to the milk

Rosa makes the first cuts to the curd

Rosa makes the first cuts to the curd

Cutting the curd

Cutting the curd

Wanda cuts vertically, Rosa cuts horizontally

Wanda cuts vertically, Rosa cuts horizontally

Wanda turns up the heat to cook the curds

Wanda turns up the heat to cook the curds

Filling molds is a team effort

Filling molds is a team effort

They never stint on style

They never stint on style

Rosa thinks it’s funny

Rosa thinks it’s funny

Sittin’ in molds

Sittin’ in molds

Removing yesterday’s batch from the molds

Removing yesterday’s batch from the molds

Each cheese is stamped with its name

Each cheese is stamped with its name

Next step: brine bath overnight

Next step: brine bath overnight

Flash forward to the shelves where the cheeses age with smoked plantain leaves

Flash forward to the shelves where the cheeses age with smoked plantain leaves

Aging cooler number 2 has no leaves

Aging cooler number 2 has no leaves

…and a hand-painted specialty

…and a hand-painted specialty

A view of one of their caves, with the selection at attention

A view of one of their caves, with the selection at attention

This cave is a converted stairway to the second floor

This cave is a converted stairway to the second floor

We visited the farmers’ market in Old San Juan; these are annatto seeds, where orange cheese gets its color!

We visited the farmers’ market in Old San Juan; these are annatto seeds, where orange cheese gets its color!

A local baker at the market

A local baker at the market

It’s a beautiful day for a farmers’ market.

It’s a beautiful day for a farmers’ market.

The local flora for sale

The local flora for sale

The Quesos Vaca Negra booth is always busy

The Quesos Vaca Negra booth is always busy

It’s even popular with the younger set

It’s even popular with the younger set

Brightly painted houses stand out in Old San Juan

Brightly painted houses stand out in Old San Juan

This dog’s takin’ it easy

This dog’s takin’ it easy

Kites!

Kites!

This little guy is sunning himself on the fortress walls

This little guy is sunning himself on the fortress walls

Morning sweeping in Old San Juan

Morning sweeping in Old San Juan

The shoreline

The shoreline

Fortress San Cristobal in the morning

Fortress San Cristobal in the morning

A gorgeous balcony in Old San Juan

A gorgeous balcony in Old San Juan

Shadows lengthen

Shadows lengthen

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