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Make Your Own Ricotta, Cream Cheese and Mascarpon :



Unless you grew up on a dairy farm, the very idea of making your own cheese probably seems intimidating, complicated and time consuming. Fortunately, I’m here to tell you that it’s shockingly easy to make many milk-based products at home. Absolutely anyone can do it.

My personal philosophy in the kitchen is that anything worth cooking can be made with very few ingredients. These cheeses require only two at most – a base of milk, yogurt or heavy cream; and an acid of either lime juice or vinegar. You’ll also need cheesecloth for straining, and large mason jars or other containers to set them in.

Cheesecloth can be challenging to find in some parts of Costa Rica. Depending on where you are, chorreador coffee sieves might be a better substitute (those white circular sock-looking things found at any supermarket for just under $1). Three or four stacked disposable coffee filters will work just as well.

I like to pair them with one or more large mason jars (the quantity of jars depends on how big the batch is). Mason jars come with a two-part lid: a flat circular piece, and a screw ring that goes along the rim of the mouth to hold it in place. Put away the flat piece, and just use the ring part to hold the cheesecloth in place.  

Some websites claim that you also need a thermometer for cheesemaking. I tried one, but quickly abandoned it. Most reasonably priced units sold in stores are highly inaccurate – so unless you want to drop a fortune on an electric one, it’s just as easy to eyeball the milk’s temperature by how it’s behaving.

Following these idiot-proof directions – even loosely – and you will succeed. I promise. And if you don’t, well…

Let’s start with ricotta, because it’s the most confidence-boosting of the three. This is because a) the cheese curds form quickly, making it feel like a science experiment and b) the recipe is (almost) completely foolproof.


How to use it: lasagna, risotto, scrambled eggs, cannoli filling, pizza topping and eating right out of the jar

What you’ll need:

  • 2 liters raw or pasteurized milk (8 cups), (not ultra-pasteurized, because it won’t curdle well – it’s a completely dead food without live enzymes)
  • 2-4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2-5 Non-reactive pot or saucepan* (stainless steel or non-stick will work)
  • Cheesecloth or substitute

*I’m told using reactive pots can leave your dairy products with an unpleasant color or taste. For what it’s worth, I accidentally used a reactive aluminum pot and my batches turned out just fine.


STEP ONE: Put milk in the saucepan on medium heat.

STEP TWO: Wait until the milk starts to gently simmer (when a slight film develops on the surface, you’re getting close). With the heat still on, add the vinegar and stir gently. The curds will separate from the whey like magic, right before your eyes.

STEP THREE: Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the curds and place them in a strainer or cheesecloth. Strain for 30 seconds for moist cheese, or for several minutes for drier cheese. Done!

Two liters (8 cups) of milk yielded about 2-3 cups of ricotta (about half the price of store-bought cheese). You can use the leftover whey to water tomato plants.


Cream Cheese Costa Rica

How to use it: creamed spinach, bagels, cheesecake, sauces, spreads, chip and veggie dips

Although you probably won’t save boatloads of money by making your own cream cheese versus buying a generic brand in the store, you will be rewarded with a much tastier product.

What you’ll need:

  • plain, full-fat yogurt*
  • cheesecloth or substitute
  • large mason jar or container

*I’m told that making your own yogurt is easy, so it might be worth a try. Personally, after three failed attempts I gave up and just bought some at the store.


STEP ONE: Set your cheesecloth or chorreador filter inside of a large mason jar or other container that can catch the whey.

STEP TWO: Pour the yogurt into the filter and let it strain overnight.

In the morning, you’ll have cream cheese.


Mascarpne Cheesse Costa Rica

How to use it: cheesecake, tiramisu, bruschetta, dipping fruit and vegetables, spread on strawberries

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • Lemon/lime juice or vinegar
  • Stack of 4 disposable coffee filters or cheesecloth, ideally (chorreadores will also work in a pinch but may require longer wait time)
  • 1-2 large mason jars or large container container
  • Non-reactive pot or saucepan (stainless steel or non-stick will work; aluminum or cast iron will not)

Pronounced mass-car-pone-nay, this one requires the most wait-time of these DIY cheeses –  but it also comes with the greatest payoff. Two cups of heavy whipping cream yields almost the same amount of final product.


STEP ONE: Heat up two cups of heavy whipping cream in a nonreactive saucepan.

STEP TWO: When it begins to gently boil, add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar

STEP THREE: Set the timer for 5 minutes. Stir, keeping it at a simmer the whole time (just below boiling). You may have to adjust the heat frequently.

STEP FOUR: Take mixture off heat and leave it alone for about 30-60 minutes. It should thicken up quite a bit by the time it cools.

STEP FIVE: Place the cheesecloth (or stack of four disposable coffee filters) inside your mason jars, affixing just the ring-part of the lid to hold them in place. Pour the mixture into the filters one at a time, taking care not to let them slip inside the jars.

(Real cheesecloth or disposable coffee filters seem to work best when it comes to straining this particular cheese, but a chorreador will work in a pinch. The larger the surface area and the thinner the layer of cream, the better.)

STEP SIX: Cover and stick it in the fridge for at least 24 hours – preferably 48 hours. The mason jars will catch any whey that falls, but there shouldn’t be much.

STEP SEVEN: Check for smooth and creamy consistency. You know the mascarpone is ready when it has a thick enough viscosity that you can slice a knife through it. If the mixture is liquid or runny at all, it needs more time in the fridge.

To speed things up, scoop out the more solidified “ready to eat” parts around the edges and place them directly another container. This will allow more space for the watery cream that still needs straining.

You can eat it as is, or get crazy and add some grated lemon peel, dried fruit or nuts.

Now go impress your friends!

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Costa Rican Businesses Under Siege: The Alarming Rise of Drug Gang Extortion



Costa Rican businesses find themselves in a precarious situation, facing extortion from notorious drug gangs like Los Lara and Diablo. According to a Costa Rican media outlet, these gangs have been siphoning millions from local businesses and vendors to fund their operations.

The Notorious Gangs: Los Lara and Diablo

Los Lara, a name that’s become somewhat familiar in the streets of San Jose, has been on the radar of authorities for years. Diablo, on the other hand, casts a wider net across the Caribbean and is led by Alejandro Arias Monge, a figure who has been eluding capture since 2018.

A Growing Menace in the Realm of Extortion

Jose Solano, head of the Miscellaneous Crimes Section Unit at the Judicial Investigation Organism (OIJ), pointed out that extortion cases are more rampant in the province of Limón than in the capital. These extortionists, in a stroke of sinister creativity, have been exploiting the digital age, using advertisements and social networks to obtain phone numbers of businesses and making audacious claims of cartel affiliations from Mexico to Venezuela.

A Modern Method of Payment for an Age-Old Crime

The gangs demand payments through Sinpe mobile or international money transfers, often using intermediaries to collect the cash. What’s more, they’re not shy about asking for a hefty cut, with demands often skyrocketing to over ten million colones. Failure to comply? Let’s just say their threats aren’t idle.

The Terrifying Statistics: A Glimpse Into the Underworld

As of November 2, the Judicial Police had a daunting tally of 686 complaints related to these extortions, encompassing ‘gota a gota’ loans and sextortion cases. Solano described a grim picture where defaulting on payments could lead to property damage, gate-bashing, and even gunfire.

The Vicious Cycle of ‘Gota a Gota’ Loans

In the murky world of ‘gota a gota’ loans, victims borrow amounts ranging from 50 thousand to two million colones, with repayments that can make loan sharks blush. The trigger point? Missing a payment. Come the weekend, if the money isn’t there, the psychological and financial extortion gears up.

Words of Wisdom: Avoiding the Debt Trap

Solano’s advice is straight out of a wise uncle’s playbook: steer clear of these informal loans. But if you find yourself in this quagmire, keep a record of everything – names, vehicle license plates, and distinguishing features of collectors. And most importantly, report it to the authorities at the first sign of trouble.

This alarming trend of extortion by drug gangs in Costa Rica highlights a growing challenge for local businesses and underscores the need for vigilance and cooperation with law enforcement. As these criminal activities continue to evolve, staying informed and cautious is more crucial than ever. It’s a stark reminder that in the world of crime, the old adage holds true: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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Costa Rica’s Japdeva Scores Tariff Increase: A Financial Lifeline or Just a Drop in the Ocean?



Costa Rica’s Junta de Administración Portuaria y de Desarrollo Económico de la Vertiente Atlántica (Japdeva) has finally scored a tariff increase after a whopping 11-year wait. However, the celebration might be muted, as the regulatory body Aresep granted less than half of what Japdeva had hoped for. It’s a bit like asking for a gourmet meal and getting a snack instead.

The Modest Windfall: A Balancing Act

Japdeva’s newly approved tariff adjustment is expected to bring in an annual revenue of ¢13.3 billion. While that sounds like a hefty sum, it’s a far cry from the ¢29 billion they were aiming for. In the world of financial balancing, this is equivalent to walking a tightrope while juggling your budget on one hand and your hopes on the other.

The Fine Print: Some Win, Some Lose

The tariff hike, as approved by Aresep, is a mixed bag. While about 20 tariffs saw increases ranging from 11% to 233%, nine others actually decreased by 6% to 69%, and 28 remained unchanged. This kind of variation could give anyone a headache, perhaps even the accountants.

Why the Hike and What’s It For?

The increase is intended to cover the necessary resources for the ongoing service at the Complejo Portuario Limón-Moín (CPLM). Yet, Aresep was quick to clarify that not all of Japdeva’s financial wishes were granted, leaving out financial expenses and depreciation costs, among others.

A Glimpse of Stability, But Expenses Still Loom Large

According to Aresep, Japdeva has shown signs of greater financial balance since 2021. However, it’s like celebrating that your boat is no longer sinking while forgetting you’re still stranded at sea – their expenses continue to outweigh their income. The lion’s share of these expenses goes to salaries (38%) and the consumption of goods (33%).

The Long Road to Tariff Adjustment

The last time Japdeva saw a tariff adjustment was back in March 2012. It seems they’ve been patiently waiting for a financial miracle for over a decade, only to receive a modest boost now. As part of the resolution, Japdeva is now required to submit annual financial statements and quarterly statistical information, possibly to avoid another 11-year tariff drought.

Japdeva’s Big Bet on Tariff Increase

For Japdeva, this tariff hike was a crucial part of their financial recovery playbook. Despite completing staff layoffs in October, they hadn’t quite hit their financial equilibrium. Anner García, the administrative manager, noted that achieving financial balance depends on new business materialization, investment projects, and – you guessed it – tariff increases.

A Year of Container Movement and Dredging Expenses

As of September, Japdeva had moved over 25,000 containers, generating revenues of ¢6.786 billion. But with monthly expenses of ¢488 million just for payroll, plus operational and maintenance costs, it’s like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in it. They also spent ¢750 million on dredging at the Gastón Kogan terminal, aimed at increasing depth by 1 to 2 meters.

Aftermath of the Terminal de Contenedores de Moín

Post the launch of the Terminal de Contenedores de Moín (TCM), which took over 80% of Japdeva’s load, the state company received two financial rescues totaling ¢55 billion. However, the current government has declined to throw any more lifelines, leaving Japdeva to navigate these financial waters with its newly approved, albeit modest, tariff increase.

Japdeva’s tariff increase, though less than desired, is a step towards financial stability, albeit a small one. It’s a classic tale of asking for the moon and getting a star – not quite what you wanted, but it’s something. As Japdeva continues to balance the books, this tariff adjustment serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by state-owned entities in maintaining financial health in a constantly evolving economic landscape.

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November 2023 Breaks All Records



According to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional (IMN), November 2023 ended as the hottest November since 1940. Luis Alvarado, a climatology expert, indicated that there was an increase of more than 1.0 °C above normal.

In terms of the national average temperature, the situation, in general, has remained the same since May. That is, the entire country has experienced warmer-than-normal conditions.

“However, if we look at the records for only November, this year presented an increase that positions it as the hottest on record, at least since 1940,” Alvarado said.

In addition, according to temperatures since 2013, the trend for this month has been upward, whereas previous years had lower-than-normal temperatures. However, it is in 2023 that, for the first time, the limit of 1.0 °C is exceeded.

According to experts, this increase was mainly due to the influence of the El Niño phenomenon, climate change, and the rise in temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. The European observatory Copernicus announced on December 7 that November 2023 was the warmest November on record worldwide.

“The surface air temperature shows that the warmest November was exceeded by 0.85°C. Additionally, new records have been consistently set since June 2023, with each month being the warmest on record,” the observatory reported.

According to experts, in the next three months, temperatures will be 1 to 2 degrees higher in Costa Rica. The Central Pacific, North Pacific, and Central Valley will be the regions that will experience the greatest increase.

On the other hand, in relation to rainfall for the previous month, deficits and surpluses were recorded. “The case that drew the most attention was the surplus of 88% in the province of Guanacaste, due to the fact that this is not usual during an El Niño phenomenon,” commented Alvarado.

The phenomenon that caused the impacts of El Niño not to manifest themselves well was the extraordinary warming of the waters of the Caribbean Sea since October. The sea is 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than normal.

According to the specialist, when the Caribbean or the Atlantic warm up in this way, they usually have the opposite effect, which is less rainfall in the Pacific and more in the Caribbean.

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