Myzithra

Melts on the tongue and fills the mouth with its sweet warmth!

Myzithra is a traditional, unpasteurized, fresh cheese made with milk and whey from sheep and/or goats, in an average ratio of 7 to 3. It has being produced in Greece for thousands of years and is believed to be the ancestor of all Greek whey cheeses.

myzithra2Myzithra is available in three varieties: fresh (sweet), sour, and aged.

It is made from raw, whole milk in the simplest way possible: milk is brought to a slow boil for a few minutes and then it is curdled by adding rennet, or whey from a previous batch or simply something acidic, like lemon juice and vinegar. As soon as the curds have formed, they are poured into cheesecloth bags and they’re hanged to drain. The dripping whey out of the bags can be used to curdle the next batch.

After a few days, Myzithra forms into a soft, snow-white mass which is sweet, creamy and moist and molded in the shape of the hanging bag, looking like a pear actually. Since no salt is added, at this stage Myzithra has an almost sweet and milky taste, so it is called “sweet” or “fresh myzithra” and can be eaten as it is or used to baked pies.

Xynomyzithra, meaning sour Myzithra, has a more acidic or sour flavor. It is created by rubbing fresh Mizithra with coarse salt and leaving it to age even more. The longer it ages, the denser, saltier and sourer it becomes.

myzithraIt can ultimately turn into a very dense, hard, white cheese that is suitable for fine grating. Hard or dried Myzithra is especially suited for sprinkling over hot pasta and it has a strong flavor.

Myzithra is a product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) according to EU regulations and it is largely produced in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Thessalia, Sterea Hellas and Crete.

Either served as a dessert with honey and cinnamon, or as a “meze” with rusks, olives and tomatoes or even when used as a table cheese, as well as in salads, pastries and in baking, Myzithra is a great and delicious cheese to choose as your main ingredient when cooking!

MLGFB Tip:

How to make Cretan Kalitsounia (Sweet Cheese Pastries, 30-35 pieces)

Ingredients:

For the dough: 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of unflavored strained yogurt, 2 eggs, beaten with a fork, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 2 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup of brandy

For the filling: 1 2/3 pounds of fresh soft myzithra cheese, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 egg yolk, 1 teaspoon of grated orange peel, 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, 1 egg, beaten (for glaze)

Topping: ground cinnamon

kaltsounia_170wDough preparation in a large bowl:

  • Whisk the dry ingredients together (sugar, baking powder, flour).
  • Add the oil, mixing with a spoon or hands.
  • Stir in the strained yogurt and eggs and mix with spoon until the dough begins to stiffen, adding the brandy to soften the dough as needed.
  • Knead the dough in the bowl for approximately 10 minutes until smooth, and set aside to rest.

Filling preparation in a separate bowl:

  • Mix the cheese, cinnamon, sugar, egg yolk, orange peel, and flour together until well blended.

Make the pastry

  • On a floured surface with a rolling pin, roll a piece of dough out to a thickness of about 1/8th of an inch.
  • Using a 3-4 inch cutter or saucer as a guide, cut out circles. (Alternatively, take a piece of dough the size of an unshelled walnut and roll it out to a circle about 3-4 inches across.)
  • Place a spoonful of the cheese mixture into the center of the circle and spread out close to the edges.
  • Raise the rim of the dough up around the cheese and, with wet fingers, pinch the edges to pull the dough in around the cheese, leaving the center open so the cheese shows.
  • Repeat using all the dough and filling

To bake

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)
  • Lightly grease a baking sheet
  • Place the kalitsounia on the baking sheet and brush lightly with beaten egg to glaze.
  • Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 20 minutes until lightly browned
  • Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon
  • Allow to cool on the baking sheet

Recipe by about.com, to see the procedure step by step press here

Photo credits: Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Header Photo

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