24.2.08

Beware the Greeks bearing cheese gifts

Some of the best Greek cheeses

“Greek cheeses are generally made from sheep's or goat's milk. If cow's milk is used in industrial production it must be mixed with one of these other two milks, since the substitution of cow's milk does not fulfill the time-honoured requirements of flavour and colour.“Among these cheeses are:

FETA which means “slice”, has been produced since the time of Hippocrates. Ancient production methods are still followed with the milk stored in leather bags until it curds.

Feta is traditionally made from goat or sheep's milk and is stored in barrels of brine. Most feta comes from mountainous areas. Greeks eat feta in different ways. It is used in salads (greek salad - horiatiki), baked in pies, crumbled on omelettes or even stuffed into fish. Probably the most favourite way to eat feta is to lay a thick slab on a plate, pour some olive oil and a pinch of oregano on top.

How Made: once the milk forms, it is heated over fire and then the curd is collected, salted and drained. Ripening depends on the saltiness and its texture. It is slightly tangy and piquant, soft in texture but firm and characteristically crumbly with 50% fat. If the feta is too salty to individual taste, soak in cold water for 24 hours.

Dispensed as grams not slice. Eat plain on bread or with crudités, as cubes on a green salad, can be marinated in olive oil with marjoram and served in triangular pieces.

By far, the most popular and the most ancient of the Greek Cheeses. It is the traditional cheese of Greece.

KASSERI cheese is a creamier version of Cantal or cheddar. Mild in flavor, white and soft taken plain or spread on bread and can even be fried in olive oil. Can be eaten on its own and can be used in sweet and savoury dishes fried in rounds or made into cakes

This is a mild - sharp tasting cheese (depending on variety). It is faint yellow in color, oily in texture and usually eaten on it's own. It is made from sheep's milk. It is good as a table cheese

MYZITHRA is ewe’s milk cheese made from whey of Feta and Kefalotyri. Usually sold in the form of a soft ball, its curd is firm and cottony, with a nutty, but pungent flavor.

Mizithra (Mitzithra) is made from sheep's or goat's milk and comes in two forms. The fresh, ricotta-lke Mizithra is unsalted. The dried version is salted, aged until hard and is good for grating and cooking. Like Ricotta and cottage cheese, Mizithra is more often used for sweet pies.

KEFALOTIRI is a cheese typical of the Greek islands, it takes its name from the Greek hat called a "kefalo" whose shape it resembles. Its curd is hard, yellow, piquant, very salty with a flavour milder than Parmesan, but saltier . It is made with a combination of sheep and goat's milk. Salty and sharp tasting, it's similar to Regato and Parmesan and is used for grating over spaghetti. Also used for frying. It is ripened for at least three months and so acquires a sharp aroma and a rich salty, tangy taste. It is 40% fat and can be used like Parmesan in salads.

GRAVIERA cheese is sold in rounds with curds filled with small holes, hard, mild in taste and resembles Swiss as well as "Greek gruyère". Excellent for gratinéed dishes, and works well with fruits and sometimes grated over spaghetti.

KOPANISTI is a specialty of the Aegean, where it is sold in terra cotta pots. Its peppery Flavour is perfect with ouzo. Curds possess blue-veins and has a fairly strong peppery taste. Utilized as an appetizer mashed into cream like other blues.

LADOTYRI is sheep's and goat's milk cheese. It is made in the shape of small spheres and so is sometimes called kefalaki (little head). Its proper name refers to olive oil, in which it is aged. It can spend as much as a year in this state and emerge richer and tastier to the point of decadence.

KEFALOGRAVIERA is a cross between Kefalotiri and Graviera, this cheese is made from cow's milk. It's a hard cheese, pale yellow in color with a sharp taste and smell. Used as a table cheese, for grating or frying.

MANOURI, like Mizithra, Ricotta and Cottage cheese, is soft in texture and unsalted. It is made from full fat sheep's milk and is mainly used for sweet pies. In Athens and the islands of Manouri is the name of soft cream cheese.

TOULOUMOTIRI is a moist, snow-white cheese. It is sweeter and stored by hanging in goatskin or sheepskin bags.

KAPNISTO METSOVONE is one of the few smoked cheeses of Greece. It is made from cow's milk, but sometimes with the addition of a little sheep's or goat's milk.

For more interesting facts on Greek cheeses, check out this site.

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