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 fresher, 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.
Cherished throughout Greece, cheese makes an appearance at nearly every meal: cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, served as mezes, plain or with olives, fried, or baked in pies. While feta has already won over the culinary world, many Greek regional cheeses have yet to be championed. Set your sights (and your taste buds) on Graviera, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, Kefalograviera and halloumi—all are 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. You eat anthotyros plain by the spoonful, stuffed in sfakianes pites (a cheese pie from Sfakia, a beautiful mountainous region of southwestern Crete), or topped on rusk bread along with tomatoes to make dakos. My family and friends love sfakianes pites and dakos, which I serve all of the time, so you needn’t go to Crete to enjoy them. Just keep reading.
Greeks have been making anthotyros for thousands of years with sheep’s or goat’s milk. I use good old cow’s milk from the local grocery store. To turn the milk into cheese, you add lemon juice or vinegar to the milk at the boiling point—this separates the curds from the whey. You too can be like little Miss Muffet who sat on a tuffet, eating your curds and whey but I like to stick with eating just the curds—that’s your cheese. As a bonus, the whey makes MIZITHRA cheese with a little more cook time and straining. What a sweet, soft, versatile cheese that is.
Light and creamy, anthotyros and mizithra take only a few hours to make. You’ll have a hefty batch of cheeses that will delight your cheese-addicted friends. Make your own cheese today for a taste of Greece in your own kitchen.
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 gallons whole milk
- ½ gallon half & half (2 quarts)
- 1 quart buttermilk
- ¾ to 1 cup white vinegar or lemon juice
- Salt, to taste
- Plus 1 gallon whole milk to make the mizithra cheese
- Pour the water into a large pot.
- Add the milk and the half and half and heat on low/medium heat.
- Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.
- Slowly bring up the heat until the milk first begins to bubble, at the boiling point. Add in buttermilk and stir vigorously.
- Quickly reduce the heat or remove from stove and slowly add vinegar or lemon juice to the pot.
- The milk will start forming lumps, these are the cheese curds and the liquid is the whey.*
- With a slotted spoon, spoon out the curds and place them in a colander lined with cheesecloth. It tastes great warm.
- Allow to drain until it forms the texture you like. The longer it strains, the more firm the cheese.
- Salt, or even add pepper, to taste or enjoy plain.