Queso fresco in the United States is a facsimile of what is found in South America. Here, regulations require aging, pasteurization, or some combination that takes the cheese far from its origins. It is then infused with water that mimics the whey of traditional queso fresco. Whey deteriorates quickly, whereas water has a very long shelf life. The result is that, while there are plenty of items sold in the store called “queso fresco,” they are not authentic. Joaquin Avellan wanted to change that.
While his father regained his health, Avellan spent 2.5 months in Venezuela studying his father’s process for making queso fresco. Having set up video cameras to record everything happening in the dairy so his father could view it from his home while he recovered, Joaquin became curious himself. He studied the video feeds piece by piece. Over time he came to know where inconsistencies happened, and he developed methods for refining the process to be very stable and predictable. He took these ideas with him when he returned to his home in Austin.n
The milk at Stryk Dairy goes directly from the cows into the cheese vats, which is as freshly as it is made in South America. Avellan sticks to his father’s traditional recipe until it comes time for aging, and that is where U.S. regulations differ from Venezuelan. American cheese from raw milk must be aged for 60 days, and so the cheese gets divided into 50-lb blocks to age for just longer than the two moon cycles that give Dos Lunas its name. By making a full cream cheese based on the traditional processes of South American queso fresco but aged for 60 days, Avellan has introduced a variety of cheese that is 100% new to the United States.
Fine restaurants in Austin can’t get enough of Avellan’s signature cheeses, from the mild and creamy Clasico to the drier and more tart-tasting Seco, and the searable half-cream Especial. He continually develops new methods and tinkers with the cheese making process to create flavor varieties that please the palates of Austin’s fine diners and farmer’s market patrons. Love is a driving force behind it all.