[Sca-cooks] Seeking Middle Easter Cheese Info

lilinah at earthlink.net lilinah at earthlink.net
Wed Jan 14 10:01:07 PST 2009

>Ardenia asked:
> A friend once mentioned to me that in modern-day Lebanon they use  
> a "fresh cheese" as a condiment served with garlic grilled meats, as  
> the cheese cuts the "heat" of the garlic. She says this tastes very  
> similar to a Roman melca (vinegar-curdled cheese {similar to a Queso  
> blanco with vinegar in place of the lemon}). Does anyone have a  
> source to suggest where I could find period ME cheese instructions?

I cannot supply SCA-period Middle Eastern cheese making instructions, beyond the several that involve draining yogurt to make labnah.

But there are dairies in the US making traditional (not necessarily SCA-period) Middle Eastern cheese and these products are worth checking out to get some idea of what is made and eaten in the Middle East, at least today. It is probably that modern Middle Eastern cheeses are likely to be closer to SCA-period Middle Eastern cheeses than SCA-period or modern European cheeses.

Among Middle Eastern cheeses are:
-- Akawi (various spellings, including Ackawi), a semi-soft cow's milk cheese common in Syria and Lebanon, generally brined (but not like Feta);
-- Basket Cheese, a white, soft, salty, circular cheese formed in a basket;
-- Charkassiye (means "Circassian"), a soft, mild fresh cheese;
-- Halloum or Halloumi, a semi-firm cheese often eaten after grilling;
-- Haloumi-style Folded Cheese with Mint, which is added after the cheese has been boiled and folded;
-- Jibne (or Jibna) Arabiya, a mild cheese common in Egypt and the Arabian Gulf, originally of goat's or sheep's milk, but often today of cow's milk, used in cooked dishes as well as table cheese;
-- Jibne (or Jibna) Baida (means "white"), a rather salty hard cheese, often boiled before eating;
-- Kashta or Kishta, a thick, slightly sour cream used both as an ingredient in cooking and mixed with honey and eaten as a dessert;
-- Kanafa, an unsalted, soft fresh cheese that melts easily, often used to make a popular "cheesecake"-like dessert of the same name;
-- Labneh, a very soft spreadable cheese made from drained yogurt, somewhat parallel to cream cheese;
-- Nabulsi (or Naboulsi), a semi-firm cheese made from sheep's or goat's milk used as a table cheese and in sweet katayif pastry, it sometimes includes herbs and spices (but not when for katayif);
-- Shalal, a braided string cheese, sometimes with spices;
-- Shanklish, common in Syria and Lebanon, made of sheep's or cow's milk and often the herb zatar, eaten fresh or formed into balls and aged;
-- Surke, an aged cheese, generally formed in balls covered with ground hot chili peppers, often served with olive oil, tomatoes, black olives and onions;
-- Testouri, made of goat's or sheep's milk, typically shaped into a ball the size of an orange;
-- Turkomani, a soft cheese with tiny holes and a delicate flavor.

One company that makes some of them is Karoun, in both Canada and the US. Another is The Specialty Cheese Company. My local Middle Eastern and halal markets sell many of them, although i haven't seen all of them...
Urtatim (that's urr-tah-TEEM)
the persona formerly known as Anahita

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