Cheese in Turkey
By Dilek Özenen Zorbey
Cheese is one of nature's most tasty foods. It is eaten by everyone with great pleasure. Cheese is not only a substantial food because of its taste but it also has high nutritional value. Milk, which is itself a great source of nutrition, is processed and made into cheese. The main substance in cheese is "casein", a protein which has no equal in nature. In addition to being rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A, cheese is an important nutritional source for life.
Another reason for its vast consumption is that it can easily be digested and it aids in the digestion of other foods. This property of cheese is due to rennet which is used to curd milk. Cheese was made in ancient times and was found to be a very substantial food for man. We know that even in the Babylonian Civilization in 2000 B.C. cheese production was quite advanced.Today in Turkey, 60% of the annual 10 million tons of milk is processed as cheese. Although the most tasty cheese is made from sheep's milk, only 10% of cheese production is produced from sheep's and goat's milk, with the remainder from cow's milk. Cheese consumption differs considerably from other countries in Turkey. The most wide-spread consumption of cheese other than at breakfast, is when it is eaten with fruit or as a sort of dessert after lunch or dinner. However in our country, cheese and olives are a must on the breakfast table. The variety of cheese depends on certain factors: cultural habits and tastes, natural conditions, the species and variety of the animals providing the milk, and the production methods employed. We have more than 100 types of cheese in our country, but when they are grouped according to their similarities,we have around 30 different kinds of cheese. The following is a list of the different kinds of cheese which are the most popular in our country:
It is produced from sheep's or cow's milk. Rennet curdles the milk, then it is strained. The curd is salted in brine and packed into tins. It is eaten mostly at breakfast. In addition it is the main ingredient in appetizers, especially when served with our traditional drink "Rakı". White cheese is also one of the ingredients in an omelette or is put on macaroni. "Börek" is a national food consumed at each meal everywhere in Turkey. Dough prepared with flour, water, salt and eggs, is rolled out wafer-thin, and placed on top of each other with oil in between. Various fillings are put between the layers which is then baked. Cheese is mostly used as a filling for börek.
It is also produced from sheep's or cow's milk. But in the Thracian region, kaşar especially that made from sheep's milk is traditional and one of the most important dairy products of the region. Rennet curdles the milk, then it is strained and the curd is boiled in salt water. After boiling cheese, the curd becomes like dough due to the heat. It is placed in round moulds and cooled. After being shaped, it is removed from the mould. Kaşar cheese made from sheep's milk is produced as large wheels and during the ageing process the outer part is allowed to dry which then forms a crust. Some of the cheeses which are produced from cow's milk have a crust but most are vacuum-packed. Both types are eaten at breakfast, however the fresh cheese is also consumed in toasted sandwiches or on baked foods in the same way as mozzarella cheese.
By removing the water of the curd, a crumbly texture is obtained. The crumbled curd is salted and packed firmly in goat's skins or in cloth sacks and aged for 3 to 6 months. During this period it becomes tasty. It can be used in börek or similar foods and is also a great appetizer when mixed with walnuts.
Mihalic (Kelle) Cheese
Its production is similar to that of white cheese. The only difference is that it has big holes. The processes applied to it give it a pretty salty flavor and it is usually consumed at breakfast with tea.
It is similar to Kaşar cheese as far as production goes but it looks like mozzarella. During the boiling of the curd instead of putting it in a mould it is stretched and becomes fibrous in appearance. It is often consumed at breakfast.
Cerkez Cheese, Orgu Cheese
Dil cheese is packed in moulds of about 100-150 gr which is known as Çerkez cheese. If it is braided it is called örgü cheese. Örgü means braid in Turkish.
Although both cheeses are vacuum-packed, örgü cheese can be preserved in brine and is usually eaten after it is cooked.
Civil (Tel) Cheese
It is produced particularly in Eastern Anatolia and the Black Sea Region. It is a type of Dil cheese made from non-fat cow's or goat's milk. It is kept in brine and consumed after cooking it in butter.
Van Otlu Cheese
It is one of the unique cheeses of Turkey. It is produced in Van and its surrounding areas. It is made by mixing the cheese with local herbs. Except for the added herbs, texture, ingredients and the way it is consumed, it resembles white cheese.
After boiling the whey, which is strained from the curd, the remaining protein is curdled. It is used in börek, served for breakfast or as an appetizer after mixing it with various herbs and spices.
The cheese culture is so widespread in our country that even in making many of our desserts cheese is used.The following three descriptions are given as examples.
It is a regional food from the Black Sea Region.
Ingredients: 100g cornflour, 1/1.5 glasses of water, 250g tel cheese, 70g butter
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the cornflour and stir, then add water and cheese in small pieces. Boil until the cheese is melted, the liquid becomes a paste and the butter comes to the top. Serve hot.
It is a popular dessert from Southern and Southeastern Anatolia.
Ingredients: 200g teleme or fresh salt-free cheese, 200g sugar, 1 glass of water, 100g butter, 250g tel kadayıf
Boil the water and sugar to obtain a syrup. In another dish mix the melted butter and kadayıf. Arrange half of the kadayıf in a tray. Spread grated cheese on it. Then arrange the remaining kadayıf. Bake in a 160 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove it from the oven and pour the syrup over it; serve hot.
Kemalpaşa Cheese Dessert
It is a dessert mostly cooked in the Bursa and Balıkesir districts.
Ingredients: 400g sugar, 2 glasses of water, 100g semolina, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 eggs, 50g butter, 150g cheese curd
Boil water and sugar to obtain a syrup and leave it. Grate the cheese and knead with the other ingredients to obtain a dough. Take small pieces of the dough, flatten them slightly and place on an oiled tray. Bake in a 180 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until they turn slightly golden. Boil the cookies in the syrup for 15 minutes. Then serve cold and top with cream, if desired.