Authentic, Family-made in the USA
Realfoodtraveler is all about celebrating authentic, regional foods. But, every once in a while, our editors come across a formerly regional company that produces wonderfully authentic products that has made it big. And that’s Cacique Hispanic Products.
Cacique (the name means “the very best” or “the ultimate authority”) was founded in 1973 by Mexican immigrants Gilbert and Jennie de Cardenas. Gilbert brought knowledge of traditional cheese making with him from Mexico and he began making and selling old-world cheeses like queso fresco (fresh cheese). Over the years, this family-owned company grew, added employees and other Mexican products, including sour creams, yogurts, and the spicy Mexican sausage, chorizo. Their guiding principles of included using fresh, natural ingredients and traditional recipes never changed. Today, you can find Cacique products in many grocery stores cross the United States.
Why do we recommend choosing products like Cacique? Because realfood is all about using authentic ingredients appropriate for the dishes. Many of us have made enchiladas or tacos with Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheeses. Try using real Mexican cheeses and you’ll taste a real difference. You can, of course, use Cacique products in non-Mexican dishes too. Their Ranchero Queso Fresco is a great substitute for feta cheese; their panela can be used in place of mozzarella. We suggest first becoming acquainted with Cacique products with Mexican dishes. Their website www.caciqueusa.com offers some terrific recipes.
These are some of the Cacique products our RFT editors sampled:
Ranchero queso fresco and Cacique queso fresco — both of these are fresh cheeses made with milk, rennet, and sea salt. Queso fresco is a crumbly cheese that will also melt when heated. It’s great on tacos or where ever you use feta cheese.
Panela — Another fresh cheese, panela is a mild cheese that resembles mozzarella only with more complex notes. At RFT, we served panela with Spanish Iberian ham and buttery crackers and found it superior to mozzarella.
Quesa Quesadilla — This pale yellow cheese, one of the RFT editors’ favorites, is a wonderful melting cheese. The flavor is buttery and nutty and it has a lovely creamy mouth feel. Like the name implies, Quesa Quesadilla makes great quesadillas. We also melted it with Cacique chorizo and with eggs and it was equally good.
Cojita — One of Cacique’s robust cheeses, cojita has a dry, crumbly texture and a more pronounced flavor than its milder cousin, queso fresco. This is a good topping cheese. We used it as a finish for traditional carnitas tacos and found it added a nice accent.
Crema Mexicana and Crema Mexicana Agria — If you haven’t discovered Mexican cremas, you should and the ones made by Cacique are excellent. Unlike American sour cream that have a gelatin-like texture, Mexican table cream or sour cream (agria) are pourable. This makes it easy to use them as a topping on enchiladas, tacos, or other dishes. It also makes it easier to control the portion. Cacique’s table cream, Crema Mexicana, is slightly sweet, rich, and creamy and would make an excellent addition to fruit, soups, or salads. Their sour cream, Crema Mexicana Agria, has a bit more tang and would make a great addition to flautas, chili rellenos, baked potatoes, or where ever you use sour cream. Both types of crema are terrific for turning down the heat on spicy dishes.
Pork and Beef Chorizo — Unlike sweet Spanish chorizo, Mexican chorizo is spicy and Cacique’s offerings are full of flavor and heat – a little goes a long way to spicing up a dish. Both Cacique’s Pork and Beef Chorizos are removed from the casing for cooking and cook up crumbly. s. While both are spicy and flavorful, the pork has intense flavors; the beef is mellower. Because chorizo naturally gives off a lot of fat, in some dishes we drained some of the fat before using in other dishes. One of our RFT editors added a bit of Cacique Pork Chorizo to a fish soup and it added just the right touch to make the dish complex without being too hot.
Another editor paired pork chorizo with Cacique’s Queso Quesadilla and stuffed it in a pita pocket for a quick lunch. Yet another editor added a bit of the beef chorizo to liven up scrambled eggs.
Real bottom line: If you want to kick up your Mexican dishes a notch with authentic products, you can’t do better than Cacique. Readily available in U.S. grocery stores, you’ll find Cacique’s line of cheeses, creams, yogurts, and meats both delicious and affordable. —Reviewed by BH
Cacique’s website www.caciqueusa.com offers some terrific recipes, including some from Food Network Celebrity Chef/Restaurateur Aaron Sanchez.