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The Big Cheese....

Like wine, cheese has been one of the most revered forms of food since ancient times. Legend has it that the first cheese was made in Sumeria around 5,000 BC, when a shepherd discovered that the milk he was carrrying in a leather bottle nad been curdled by the enzyme found in a calf’s stomach. There are certainly many references to cheese throughout the literature of ancient Greece, including Homer’s Odyssey. 

Cheese consumption in Crete is the highest throughout the world due in part to the fact that they are of such superb quality and taste. Cretan cheeses are still produced in the traditional way, based on sheep and goats that feed freely on the herbs and grasses in the mountains and fields.

 Although many cheeses defy categorization, some criteria can be used, such as texture, strength of flavour, rind, milk type, region of production and fat content.
 
The Best of the Bunch...


Graviera

The most famous of Cretan cheeses. A pale yellow hard cheese with small holes the size of lentils, made of unpasteurized sheep’s milk. It ranges from sweet when young, to nutty and more pungent when aged.

Kefalograviera
Spicy, firm cheese that is sharper than graviera, especially if aged. This is Crete’s answer to Pecorino, and is often used in baked dishes or as a table cheese.

Malaka
A compact soft cheese similar to mozzarella or a young brie, mildly sweet and elastic. It is the same cheese as graviera, but is used before it matures, thereby retaining its moisture.

Myzithra

A soft, creamy, fresh cheese made from the whey of ewe or goat resembling ricotta. (When made from goat it is much like French „chevre frais”.) It is used as a filling in all types of Cretan pies both sweet and savory. When dried and matured for a few months it becomes a popular grating cheese (often referred to as Anthotiro)

Xynomyzithra

Unique to Crete, this „sour” whey cheese is salted and is grainy rather than creamy. Mostly used for pies and pastries and to spread on the renowned paximadi (rusk).

Staka
If you can find this delicacy, try it! Made from the cream skimmed off the milk simmered with a little flour until the butter is separated. A yellowy thick cream remains that resembles crème fraiche. Can be spread on bread or fried with eggs.

Tyrozouli

This semi-hard cheese is made in and around Mt. Psiloritis, but is very hard to find these days. Vinegar or lemon juice is used instead of rennet. It is air-dried, then kept in a container of olive oil.

Piktogalo

Soft, pure white, slightly tart, spreadable cheese with no outer skin or holes. Made of non-pasteurized sheep’s milk or mix of sheep and goat. Its manufacture is permitted only in the vicinity of the town of Chania.

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