My love for cheese is so big that almost makes me believe I was a mouse in my previous life! It’s a “must have” in my cooler and I can eat it any time of the day. Although I do not know the history of cheese but I know for sure that it has a special place in Turkish cuisine. For those who needs to know what cheese is Turkish Food Regulation described it as a dairy product with particular taste, aroma and consistency, produced by coagulating raw milk, UHT milk or milk cooked at 72 degrees for two minutes with cheese yeast or a harmless acid, and leaving to maturation for a particular period. When it comes to variety of cheese, Turkish culinary culture is rich with about 20 different types that can be categorized in five groups; kaşar (a pale yellow cheese made of sheep’s milk), tulum (cheese encased in a skin), mihaliç (also known as “kelle” cheese), lor (cord), and the white cheese group. With this richness and delicious tastes, it’s almost impossible to refuse eating cheese unless you are lactose intolerant.
One of the most favorite kinds of cheeses in Turkey is “Beyaz Peynir” (white cheese). Commonly known as feta cheese in the West, beyaz peynir is mostly produced in the Marmara Region of Turkey. It can be can be produced out of sheep or cow milk and the production techniques are different in the regions. As an absolute part of Turkish breakfasts, beyaz peynir also has various types such as high-fat, low-fat and even diet.
Another delicious kind is called “Tulum Peyniri” . It has three main varieties according to the regions; Erzincan Tulumu, Kargı Tulumu and Izmir Tulumu. Ezincan Tulumu is a kind of cheese mostly produced with sheep’s milk. Encased in an animal skin, it’s white and creamy, fatty with a butter aroma, and has a strong taste. Kargı Tulumu on the other hand is more suitable for brekfasts. Made from autumnal milk in a goat’s skin, it’s creamy. There’s one more famous type called Izmir Tulumu. Different from the other regions in Anatolia, saltwater is used in this type made in the Aegean region. Made from sheep’s or mixed milk, it contains higher fat than the traditional tulum.
One of the most famous ones is “Kaşar Peyniri” and it’s produced with sheep’s milk. Generally produced Middle Anatolian and Thrace regions, this cheese has dark yellow color. Eski (old) Kaşar is the type that’s aged in sacks and can be kept for up to three years.
“Kars Gravyeri” is a cheese made of high-fat cow’s milk. Taking a long time to produce it looks like French gruyere cheese and somehow tastes like Swiss emmental cheese. This yellow cheese has a darker outer crust. Its holes are 1-2 cm and you can understand its quality according to these hols. If the holes are big or small with irregular shapes, it means the cheese does not have good quality.
“Mihaliç Peyniri” is mostly produced around Bursa and Balikesir regions, has teleme waited in salty water. Harder than kaşar peyniri its color is more white and has little holes. For example Bandırma Mihaliç Peyniri has roundish holes and is a long lasting cheese.
“Lor Peyniri” is produced with the whey released during the production of kaşar and mihaliç. It’s unsalty and usually used as börek (pastry) filling in Turkish cuisine.
“Karadeniz tel peyniri” is made from fat-free milk. Produced in the Black Sea Region of Turkey, it can be seperated into fibers and that’s why called as tel (fiber) cheese. It has a light yellow color and because of the fact that it’s fat free and rich in protein, it can be preferred for diets.
“Van Otlu Peyniri” is produced in Van by sheep’s milk in Spring when sheep gives birth. Whie production of this cheese, wild herbs collected from the surrounding mountains in Van are added to milk.
“Çerkez Füme Peyniri” (fumed cheese) is a low-fat cheese with a light yellow color and a thick crust. This tasty cheese is also a long lasting type.
Of course there are so many other types of cheese produced in different regions in Turkey and therefore as a Turk whether I’m entertaining friends for a casual gathering or hosting a formal dinner, I make sure cheese is on the menu. And as a reminder, in Turkish culture we do not say “cheese” while taking pictures but it’s not because we’re lactose intolerant. It’s because we probably have eaten some cheese and already smiling for the camera.