The Big Cheese- Cyprus on a Plate

Whilst watching the Two Greedy Italians talking about cheese and cheese- making which came up in nearly every programme, I inevitably started to wonder why there are comparatively few types of cheese made in Cyprus. Of course there is the versatile Halloumi, the hard,salty cheese made from goat’s or ewe’s milk preserved in brine with Anari the soft cheese made from the whey.  There is also Kefalotiri  made from sheep or ewe’s milk which is a hard yellow cheese similar to Gruyere with a salty, nutty flavour. These three are the traditional well known cheeses. The Anari can be eaten fresh which is a beautifully mild creamy texture and taste  or left to dry hard and used like parmesan. It is very similar to ricotta and is used in all kinds of cooking, my favourite being Bourekia Anaris which are little pastry parcels filled with cinnamon and anari, lightly fried. There is also a table cheese called Kaskavalli which is a yellow cheese with holes in it which is like the Italian Caciocavallo and probably was introduced by the Italians to Cyprus during the period of Venetian rule. Feta is also made on Cyprus, another cheese which is preserved in brine and inevitably sprinkled on top of the village salad when eating out.

In Cyprus as in Greece, sheep and goats are kept for their milk to make cheese and some cow’s milk is used nowadays and mixed in. In Cyprus it’s not allowed to use cow’s milk in the making of Kefalotiri however. The terrain of the country is perfect for sheep and goats as it is hilly and there are plenty of fresh herbs and shrubs for them to eat giving the resulting cheese a delicious flavour. To rear cows, pasture is needed which is not available although beef and milk are produced, the cattle must be reared in sheds. The goats only produce milk for a few months of the year which is why brine is used to preserve the cheese so it can be used  in the months when there is no fresh milk available and thus giving the cheese quite a salty taste. Cheeses made from goat or ewe’s milk is my favourite kind of cheese and I delight in trying the different varieties made around the world.The method for making all cheese follows roughly the same techniques it’s the source of the milk, the rennet and the maturing process that gives cheese its individual textures and flavours.

The Cypriots are strong traditionalists and this is shown in their steadfastness to sticking with the tried and tested. I wonder if any of the new generation of makers coming up now will venture into new avenues and say make a soft goat’s cheese or experiment with making a different variety of hard cheese? I would be very interested to try it when they do.

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