Everything tastes better in Greece. Maybe it’s because when I’m there I can take the time to sit back, sip some Greek coffee and savor the food. Or maybe it is because the tomatoes truly are juicier, the fish is always more fresh, and all the pites (pies) are locally baked. Whatever it is, whenever I return to the states it seems my taste buds go dormant until my next visit. I miss the tastes of Greece. Most of all, I miss all the varieties of fresh cheese.
Cheese is cherished throughout Greece and is a common food item in the Greek diet. Greeks eat cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, either served as mezes (appetizers), plain or with olives, fried, or baked in pites. Feta is the best known of the Greek cheeses, served on a salad or simply as a table cheese. Many areas of Greece have regional varieties of cheese. Among the better known are graviera, kasseri, kefalotiri, kefalograviera and halloumi—all versatile cheeses for nearly any occasion.
Then there’s anthotyros, a soft Greek cheese that’s similar to ricotta cheese and often associated with the island of Crete. Not to sound cheesy, but it’s my favorite of the all the Greek cheeses. It’s also simple to make. Anthotyros is eaten plain by the spoonful, stuffed in sfakianes pites (a cheese pie from Sfakia, a beautiful mountainous region of South Western Crete) or topped on rusk bread along with tomatoes to make dakos. Both sfakianes pites and Dakos are popular Cretan dishes and are served frequently at my house.
Greeks have been making anthotyros for thousands of years, originally derived from the milk of a sheep or goat. I use good old cow’s milk from the local grocery because I don’t have easy access to sheep or goats milk. To turn the milk into cheese, lemon juice or vinegar is added to the milk at the boiling point to separate the curds from the whey. You can be like little Miss Muffet, who sat on a tuffet, and eat the curds and whey—but I like to stick with eating just the curds—that’s your cheese.
Anthotyros is light and creamy and takes only a few hours to make a hefty batch that can be used for whatever your cheese loving heart desire for days or weeks. Make your own cheese today for a taste of Greece in your own kitchen.
-2 gallons whole milk
-½ gallon half & half (2 quarts)
-1 quart buttermilk
-1 cup water
-¾ to 1 cup white vinegar
-salt to taste
1. In a large pot, pour in one cup of water and bring to a boil.
2. Turn down the heat to low to medium heat and pour in the milk and the half and half.
3. Stir the milk constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.
4. When the milk begins to boil, add in buttermilk and stir vigorously.
5. Remove from heat and slowly add vinegar to the pot.
6. The milk will start forming lumps, these are the cheese curds and the liquid is the whey.
7. With a slotted spoon, spoon out the curds and place them in a colander lined with cheesecloth.
8. Allow to drain for at least 3 hours and remove the cheese and place into a bowl.
9. Salt the cheese to your preference and enjoy!
*Don’t throw the whey away, yet! Strain it thoroughly, not even little bits of curd remaining. Next, bring the whey to a boil. As soon as it begins boiling, turn down the heat and add 1 gallon of whole milk. Curds will again form. Stir and stir some more. Use a slotted spoon and put these curds into a second strainer. The cheese that will form is softer and is known as mizithra and can be eaten fresh like the first batch, or aged and salted for up to two months to form a dried cheese.