Kefalotyri Cheese: How It’s Made?

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Aaron

Kefalotyri is one of the oldest Greek cheeses. Its origins trace back thousands of years. Its longstanding presence in Greek culture and cuisine makes it a significant part of the country’s gastronomic heritage.

The cheese has a hard texture, suitable for grating. Its flavor is rich, tangy, and salty, which can become more intense as it ages. It can be consumed as a table cheese, grated over dishes, used in cooking, or even fried as in the popular dish “saganaki.”

In certain regions of Greece, Kefalotyri is used during festive periods, and its consumption becomes a part of the celebrations.

What’s so Special about Kefalotyri?

Kefalotyri is traditionally made from sheep’s milk, but it can also be made from a mix of sheep’s and goat’s milk. While many cheeses around the world are made from cow’s milk, the use of sheep’s and goat’s milk imparts a distinct flavor and fat content to Kefalotyri.

As with many traditional products, the quality and characteristics of Kefalotyri can be influenced by the specific region where it’s produced due to local methods, climate, and feed for the sheep and goats.

Similar to Paneer or feta cheese, Kefalotyri has a high melting point, which makes it suitable for frying without melting, as seen in dishes like saganaki. Not all cheeses can boast this characteristic.

Furthermore, kefalotyri has a notably salty taste, which not only adds to its flavor profile but also aids in its preservation. The brining or salting process might be more pronounced compared to some other cheeses.

How It Is Made: An Overview

Kefalotyri cheese has certain aspects of its production that may distinguish it from other cheeses, but the fundamental steps of cheese-making (like curdling, draining, pressing, and aging) remain largely consistent across different types of cheeses.

Here’s a basic overview of the production process for Kefalotyri cheese:

Fresh sheep’s milk, or a blend of sheep’s and goat’s milk, is collected. It is then heated to a specific temperature to ensure it is pasteurized and safe for cheese production. A starter culture, which consists of specific bacteria, is introduced to the milk. This bacteria will help in acidifying the milk. Afterward, rennet is added. Rennet contains enzymes that cause the milk to coagulate, turning it into curds and whey.

Once the rennet is added, the milk will begin to coagulate, usually within 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The result will be a thick, custard-like texture. The curds are cut using a knife or a special curd cutter. The size to which they are cut will affect the final texture of the cheese. Generally, for harder cheeses like Kefalotyri, the curds are cut into smaller pieces.

The cut curds are then gently cooked while being stirred. This is done by slowly increasing the temperature of the curd mixture. Cooking helps to expel more whey from the curds.

After cooking, the curds are drained from the whey, usually by placing them in a mold or cheesecloth. At this point, herbs or spices may be added for different kefalotyri varieties. The curds are pressed to remove any remaining whey and to give the cheese its final shape. The amount of pressure and duration can vary.

Lastly, the cheese is salted, either by rubbing salt on the surface or by immersing the cheese in a brine solution. Salt helps in preserving the cheese and also enhances its flavor. Kefalotyri cheese is then aged for several months (usually 12 months or above, which is more popular) to achieve its characteristic flavor and hard texture. The environment in which it’s aged is controlled for temperature and humidity.

It’s important to note that while this gives an overall idea of the production process, there are nuances and variations depending on the specific producer or region.

Kefalotyri with 100% sheep milk. Added with red pepper, dried chili, and black pepper. Some part of the video has no sound, please bear with it.
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