This is a blog post to share with you some of the magic which exists in Greek cheese. Most of us often see cheese as an interesting ingredient to cook with or have as part of our cheese platter. And it is of course that. But so much more.
Next time you get a piece of cheese, before you eat it or start grading it, stop. Look at it. Smell it. Cut a small piece and put it in your mouth. When you taste cheese, an entire world opens up. The cheese that you taste is more than its taste and aroma. It’s more than an ingredient to be used in salads or soufflés. It carries within it all the characteristics of the place where it is coming from. Of the animals whose milk created it. Of the time of the year when it was made. Of the cheesemaker whose art turned the milk into cheese. Of the culture of that place in the world where it comes from. Each cheese carries a story. If you pay close attention, you can experience it.
Today we will share with you the story of our graviera cheese from Naxos.
The cheesemaker Emmanuel Koufopoulos lives on the island of Naxos. His cheese room operates from 1990 in the area of Saint Isidoros Galanadou at the intersection of Melana and Potamia. You know, if you are ever around. His graviera cheese has been awarded protection under the European Union’s Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status. What does this mean? It means that only the cheese produced there can have that name.
Koufopoulos puts together family heritage and modern technology and creates his cheese using local cow’s, sheep’s and goats’ milk. Almost daily, he collects milk from his own cows, and from animals living in the mountains of Naxos. Kinda gives you a glimpse of how cheesemaking was done in the past. He also uses vegetable rennet (yes, this cheese is vegetarian!). Of course, there are no preservatives or additives.
He usually talks about his love for cheese, which, yes, comes through once you taste it. Aged for minimum one year, this cheese has a semi-hard texture and a rich aroma, a creamy and buttery mouthfeel, and a mellow peppery taste with nutty undertones.
There are various ways to enjoy this cheese. You can include it in a cheese platter. You can enjoy it in a sandwich, smothered with some chutney or pickled onions. You can use it in cooking. Grade and sprinkle over pasta. Make soufflés, quiches or pies. Cut in cubes and include it in salads. Melt in a cast iron skillet and serve with pickled cucumbers.
Yes, there are many ways to enjoy this cheese. But if you ask me, the best way to savour it is the simplest one. With some good crusty sourdough bread. You can then experience properly this graviera from the island of Naxos.