Cheese of the month December 2015: Türkmen Çeçil Peyniri from the Kars region/Turkey

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One of the most exciting Heinzelcheese highlights this year was the great Turkey tasting during the Cheese Berlin, and that’s why I’d like to serve you a little reminder here in the form of a fantastic artisanal cheese from the Kars region in eastern Anatolia, with the poetic name Angels Hair or Turcoman Tassel: Türkmen Çeçil. It fits well with this dark winter month, as it demonstrates how cheeses we tend to call traditional developed through logistical requirements. The folks on the border to Armenia followed their herds from pasture to pasture, and the animals only gave milk when they’d have young ones, which is in the summer months. To have protein on the table during the winter, some kind of preservation was clearly needed: cheese!

Türkmen Çeçil PeyniriAnd that would be cheese that kept without refrigeration and was easy to transport. In this particular case the herdsmen curdled the milk (possibly sheep’s, today it is cow’s), kneaded the curd in hot water like mozzarella, then shaped it into long strings like Chinese noodles, which they hung up to dry. Here is a short movie that shows this: Türkmen.

This so-called angels’ hair is heavily salted, very light in weight and it easily keeps several years. You can nibble at it such as it is or sprinkle it over vegetables, rice or pasta. Or – and this is the genius – you pour hot water over it: this will reconstitute it to a pliable cheese which you can fry, and if you add a little fresh milk it actually resembles mozzarella in taste and texture. As I said: a genius, low-tech method for stocking your larder. Once again, I thank and heart my dear friend Gamze who travelled with a suitcase full of cheese from Istanbul to Berlin.

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