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Good and local – sheep and goat’s cheese from the mountains of Crete

Good and local – sheep and goat’s cheese from the mountains of Crete

Mountainous Crete has always been a place where sheep and goats roam freely. Their milk is a key element in the local diet and makes wonderful local cheese,  so here, for cheese lovers everywhere, is our introduction to three of the best.

Anthotyros

This is a white light soft whey cheese, made of goat’s and sheep’s milk. The milk whey left over from the production of other types of cheese is used. You will find it sold in little wheels and decorated by a basket weave pattern.

Anthotyros is creamy and white in appearance sweetish in flavour and highly perishable due to its low salt and fat content.

Aged types also exist, known as dried anthotyros preserved by the addition of salt, which adds to extend its self-life. Dried anthotyros can be cut in cubes, jarred and kept in olive oil.

Anthotyros is used as a table cheese, accompanying meze or any meal, is used in sweet and savoury pies. Fruit (grapes or melons) and anthotyros make an exceptional match.

 cheeseMizithra

A higher percentage of milk in relation to milk whey gives us mizithra, a white soft cheese slightly creamier than anthotyros. Mizithra is used almost everywhere, as a generous topping on Greek salad, as a side to any Cretan dish, as a filling to traditional sweet and savoury pies. Its taste may slightly differ depending on the season as it is highly dependable on the diet of the goats and sheep’s. It is sold as a soft mass and is bought by the kilo.

Aged versions are saltier and much harder in texture. Extra salt is added and the creamy cheese mass is left hung in cotton cloth bags. Ultimately it transforms in a dense, hard white cheese with a strong flavor traditionally used as a topping on pasta.

 Graviera

This is the second most popular type of cheese in Greece, after feta. In Crete Graviera is made from sheep’s milk and needs to mature for at least six months. Graviera is produced traditionally in very large wheels and has a characteristic crisscross pattern on the external surface due to the draining cloth during preparation. It is readily available, sold in large pieces again by the kilo. Due to its sweet, buttery flavour it is highly versatile, used in cooking or eaten as a side. The tradition at the end of the meal calls for graviera drenched in honey and a shot (or two) of raki.

Come on a Greek foodie holiday with us and we’ll introduce you to all these local cheeses and more.