This woman-owned artisanal aged-cheese producer was on the front wave of what is an increasingly vibrant local food movement. Wanda Otero, a microbiologist, decided to start her business in part to offer Puerto Ricans an alternative to expensive imported cheeses. She has since expanded into yogurt-making, and her products are now sold in supermarkets and found on the menus of the island’s finest restaurants. Travelers can visit the Vaca Negra facility for a tour, which includes the opportunity to make their own cheese.
Cheese Tasting and Making
The wonderful people of Quesos Vaca Negra make handmade cheeses from raw milk—and with no hormones to boot. Their Montebello will have you on cloud nine in no time, but there are more reasons this factory hidden among the farms of Hatillo is a mecca for cheese lovers: the owners occasionally offer tours and cheese-making demonstrations. Wanda, a microbiologist and co-owner, talked to us about milk and cheese for a while to start off our visit. We learned about cows’ lives, cheese-making techniques, different milks, and regulations concerning dairy. The second part included a tour of the facilities, when she showed us how the cheese is cut to separate the serum from the whey. She was extremely knowledgeable and friendly—she explained how different cheeses come to be, answered our questions in detail, and allowed us to try the cheese curds (which at that point tasted a little bit like very fresh mozzarella, but sweeter). After our tour, we sampled their five cheeses with bread and our choice of red or white wine, or juice. Then we donned some gloves and went to work on making our cheeses, to which we could add any spices from her collection. At the end, we put our cheeses in the fridge. Once she ages them for two months, she will call us to come pick them up. We also got to see their cheese storage and buy cheese and gift baskets. I’ve been interested in making my own cheese for a while and this was definitely the best gateway I could’ve asked for.