Kefalotyri Cheese: A Flavorful Ingredient for Your Mediterranean Diet
Get ready for a unique sensory experience: today we head to the coasts of Greece to taste the legendary Kefalotyri, an incredible dairy delight from Greece. This salty and crumbly cheese, made from sheep’s or goat’s milk and matured to perfection in brine, is a flavor bomb and is very similar, both in production and flavors, to our Pecorino.
The rind of Kefalotyri is generally hard and varies in color from straw yellow to amber, depending on maturation. Its surface may show traces of natural mold if aged for longer periods, which are, however, an integral part of its character.
To the sense of smell, Kefalotyri exudes an intense fragrance dominated by the aromatic and wild overbearing nature of sheep’s milk. The predominant notes are those of fermented milk, alpine herbs, and in some cases, light hints of dried fruit. As the seasoning increases, the aroma becomes more complex and refined.
On the palate, this cheese is an explosion of flavors. Initially, there is a strong and salty taste, which can evolve into sweeter and fruitier tones or, conversely, become spicier and more intense with maturation. The complexity of the flavor amplifies over time, making every tasting a gustatory adventure.
The internal paste of Kefalotyri is white or light yellow in color and has a semi-hard structure, which varies according to the degree of maturation. The consistency is compact, with very few eyes. When bitten, the structure is elastic and slightly grainy, especially in more mature cheeses.
Shape and Weight
Kefalotyri generally takes the form of a medium-sized cylindrical wheel. Its shape is uniform and solid, with a weight that varies between 2 and 10 kg, depending on the size and production method. This makes Kefalotyri a rather versatile cheese, suitable for both home use and sale in specialized shops.
The production of Kefalotyri is a process that requires attention to detail and knowledge. Start by collecting milk from sheep, goats, or a combination of the two. The milk is then pasteurized and brought to an ideal temperature for curdling, usually around 32-35°C. Natural rennet and lactic ferments are added, which initiate the milk coagulation process.
After about 60-90 minutes, the clot is cut into small pieces, about a centimeter in diameter, with a lyre or a knife. These pieces are then pressed to eliminate excess whey and consolidate the structure of the cheese. Finally, the cheese is salted, either by means of brine or dry salting, and left to mature for periods ranging from a few months to over a year in cellars at controlled temperatures and humidity.
During maturation, the cheese acquires its distinctive hard rind, and the flavor intensifies, reaching the complexity that makes it unique.
How to Serve it
Just like Pecorino, it pairs well with blueberry and orange jams, fresh grapes, chestnut honey, and onion compote. It’s better to accompany it with something sweet to balance out its flavor. Also excellent with ham and Tuscan bread for a quick snack.
Which Wine Goes Well With Kefalotyri
Vermentino: A light, fresh white wine that balances the salty flavor of the cheese.
Soave: Another white wine, but with notes of almond and citrus, which pairs well with the richness of Kefalotyri.
Chianti: If you prefer red wine, a young, fruity Chianti can provide a counterpoint to the robustness of the cheese.
Assyrtiko: Coming from the island of Santorini, this white wine is mineral and acidic, an ideal pairing.
Moschofilero: An aromatic white wine with floral notes that add a new dimension to the cheese.
Agiorgitiko: A red from the Peloponnese region, known for its fruit and spice aromas, which pairs beautifully with Kefalotyri.
Greek Dishes Based on Kefalotyri
Kefalotyri is a real star of Greek cuisine, being a fundamental component in several traditional dishes.
Saganaki: It is the main ingredient in “Saganaki,” an appetizer where the cheese is fried until golden and crispy.
Pastitsio: In “Pastitsio,” a sort of Greek lasagna, it is used as a gratin element.
Moussaka: You will also find it in “Moussaka,” a dish based on eggplants and minced meat.
Horiatiki and Salads: Additionally, it is generously used in salads such as “Horiatiki,” or even grated over pasta or rice dishes to add a touch of salty, crunchy flavor.
If you love Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano, you will like Kefalotyri for its semi-hard consistency and its saline, rich, and splendidly rustic flavor. Its robust and granitic aromatic structure makes it an excellent choice for those who love mature cheeses with a strong flavour.