Thursday, November 10, 2011

Kesong Puti Syndrome

We Pinoys know how to make cheese too, and in fact, we have been making them for a long time already. It goes by the name kesong puti

This soft cheese is made from carabao's milk, salt and rennet (traditionally), usually coming from some Tagalog provinces. For those who don't know rennet, it is a stomach enzyme of a carabao, cattle or goat that plays an important part in production of kesong puti. I wouldn't tell of how to get rennet because its out of topic already, and its gross. Besides, one can buy ready rennet than bothering how to make it. Anyway, the cheese easy to make and very easy to enjoy. All you need is some hot pandesal and a noisy stomach in the morning.

Kesong puti is popular in the Filipino Culture still. But the cheese and a few things about it has a huge impact on Pinoy behavior and culture. Due to the limited supply of milk in the country in the old days, we prefer consuming milk than cheeses. Sometimes a batch milk from a carabao or cow may just be enough for a household or two. Instead of making cheeses, they give it to kids. This may also be the reason why our old folks see cheese as luxurious and a welcome treat. Take for instance, keso de bola which I will talk about in an article in the next few weeks.

Looking at it on a different perspective, kesong puti doesn't last long, 2 days usually. It means if you get a few, they will have to be consumed immediately or it goes bad and gets thrown away. Like in the days of our ancestors where there's no refrigeration, we don't keep things too long and our methods of preservation aren't really sophisticated. What we get will have to be consumed for the day. We are still not very far from "isang kahig, isang tuka" because we presently live a lifestyle dictated by limited resources. Strange though that we find happiness and contentment inspite of the given situation, even to now. Hearing many say "ganun talaga eh" provokes a thought that our race is not inferior but may have higher understanding and acceptance of things.

This cheese teaches us a lot of insights to our culture. I believe there's more, but for now I wish to talk about kesong puti itself. I must say, the first time I bought and tasted one, nothing wow really happened. There was a faint artificial taste to it (maybe because of vinegar or ascorbic acid) and a funny scent due to fermentation. So still hoping for a wow factor in the cheese, I popped a bread in an oven toaster, topped it with kesong puti and it melted like mozzarella! It started to get exciting then and there. Honestly, it tasted better afterwards. You should try it sometime too.