Every morning, early, Cuzco gets up to begin its work day. Before going out to work the people need a good breakfast that will give them the energy necessary to carry out their day. What is better than to have some fresh milk in the morning.
While some of Cuzco’s milk comes from other regions and is bought in cans as evaporated milk, condensed milk, or even powdered milk, it also comes as boxes of milk produced and marketed by Peru’s giant dairy company Gloria. However, fresh milk from local cows also comes to the city brought by lecheras, milk vendors, and sold in the city’s markets.
The lecheros or lecheras always dress in white and are known for being very friendly. They always seem to have a big smile and are seated by the curbs offering their milk to buyers. “Leche fresca, caserito,” they shout out. “Fresh milk, little casero,” they say with warmth . The lecheras use this loving phrase as a tool to draw their clients in.
The fresh milk brought to Cuzco mostly comes from a province that is some 20 minutes from the city, Anta. This area with its famous flat grasslands is known as the milk zone. Every Sunday they carry out a fair and festival where they sell milk and milk products such as a variety of cheeses, milk, yogurt, and more They also put on a cattle show and offer different activities so that the public can have lots of fun and learn.
Besides Anta, fresh milk also comes to Cuzco from Surite, Anca Huasi and other places. It comes to the market in milk cans or other vessels. The liter of milk costs between S/ 1.70 to S/ 2 ($0.70- $0.80 US).
From these areas also come a whole range of milk products such as cheeses, cream, butter, sweetened carmelized milk (manjares), yogurt and more.
The cows are milked two times a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. In order to milk the cows the lecheros first tie down the back feet of the cows. They bring the calf and have it suckle lightly the four teats for a minute in order to get the milk to flow. Then they milk the cows.
Some of the cattleman draw milk from creole cattle or mixed breed cattle called vacas chuscas while others work with Holstein. From the first they may get around 5 liters per cow while from the second they can get 12 liters. Not only the breedmatters, but also the forage the cattle are given, sometimes they get grass although alfalfa is better.
Cows only give milk until the calf is about eight months old. The production of milk varies depending on the season. In the dry season milk production drops because forage gets scarce because of the heat in the day and the lack of rain fall.
There is no better way to enjoy Cuzco’s milk than to have a cup of hot milk accompanied by a chuta bread. This is a great combination to avoid the cold on the chilly mornings of our current dramatic, rainy days.
I remember that in the countryside the people have their hot milk with toasted corn. I had the experience of enjoying this many times and I can tell you it is a pleasure. The flavor of this corn is tasty and crunchy. Its name is chullpi and it is loved buy the people. They add it to the cup of milk like a cereal and eat it that way. A traditional breakfast or evening meal.