Most people think feta is the only cheese Greece produces. While it is true that Greece produces 220,000 metric tons of feta, the country produces many other cheeses in significant quantities.
Cheese making has a long history in this ancient country and the first ever reference to this delectable food appears in the Odyssey. Even Aristotle, the famous philosopher and writer, made cheese in his free time.
Romans learned cheese making from Greeks and expanded its popularity to all regions they conquered and ruled. Consider the fact that the apex of the Roman Empire extended from southern England all the way to southern Iraq, including all of North Africa and much of Central Europe.
Greece produces 300 distinctly different cheeses mostly due to the taste of local milk pending on terroir.
The country’s flora consists of more than 6000 kinds of plants and herbs yielding distinctly different flavours.
Most of cheese in this rugged, and sunny Mediterranean country originates from ewes’ and goats’ milk, both of which are rich in protein, fat and solids. 60 grams of cheese is all one needs to cover 25 per cent of protein, 20 percent of calcium and 22 per cent of vitamin A the body needs daily including many other vitamins and minerals.
Feta is officially recognized by EU as authentically Greek and given the P D O (Designation of Origin) title. Other countries feta-style cheeses are just that and cannot be labeled as feta.
This goats’ and ewes’ milk cheese is white and may be soft or hard. The former is sweeter and rich in aromas, whereas the latter salty and firm.
In Toronto several cheese mongers and most Greek grocery stores carry a range of feta-style cheeses. Some are from Bulgaria, Romania, France, Denmark and Ontario; none compares favorably to the authentic product.
Kaseri is a traditional aged Greek cheese made from a blend of ewes’ and goats’ milk
Tangy and flavourful, this versatile cheese can be enjoyed for breakfast, grated on pastas, in cooking, and to finish the last of a bottle of red wine. It is widely available in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Beware of imitations.
Graviera is another traditional cheese made blending cow and ewes’ milk. This hard, yellow cheese studded with small holes may be subtly sweet or mildly salty. This table cheese tastes best with fruit, or on pastas, as well as for breakfast on toasted country style bread.
Graviera from Crete, Naxos, and Agrafa have been awarded P D O recognition.
Although Greece produces in excess of 300,000 tones of cheese, per capita consumption is high making the country a net importer of cheese.