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Top Five Least Known Georgian Cheeses

Georgia has ancient culture of producing delicious cheese dating back 8,000 years. We have chosen the top-five least known types of cheese.

Dambalkhacho

Dambalkhacho is a unique Georgian type of cheese. The tradition of making Dambalkhacho is spread around the mountainous regions of the country. Today it is made in Pshavi and Tianeti, situated in the region of Mtskheta-Mtianeti. The cheese is highly valued due to its production method, which requires a few months.

Dambalkhacho is usually prepared in May, as this is the best period of milk production. It is made from the buttermilk cottage cheese that remains after churning butter. This cottage cheese is salted, kneaded by hand into balls and then placed for drying on the “Tskhauri” (a kind of perforated dish) or on special wooden cages hung over a fire. They are dried for several days in a warm room protected from the sun until the balls become dry and dense. After this, the balls are placed into a ceramic closed pot and left in a cool and dark place to ripen, which takes one to two months. The cheese must be aged in a cool basement or even underground, so that a kind of mold can develop on its surface. The cheese is rather spicy with a distinctive smell. Its consistency is semi-soft and uniform.

Chogi

In August, the traditional Tushuri processed cheese Chogi is made from freshly-collected raw sheep’s milk in Tusheti.

In August the Tushuri sheep yields less milk, which is noted for its increased fat content. The freshly collected milk is poured into a keg and warmed at 36-37C, after which rennet is added. A block of cheese is formed from the curd, and the whey is squeezed out. Unlike with Gouda, the cheese is not put into a guda, but a wooden cask, the bottom of which is lined with pieces of birch tree, which enable the whey to completely drain from the cheese. The cask is covered and kept in a dark place for about a week, after which the cask is uncovered; the already mildewed cheese is taken out and placed in the sun to be dried. The dried cheese is placed in a clean cask, but now the upper block of cheese and the bottom blocks are reversed. The cask is covered and left again in the dark place for about one week (this depends on the outside temperature, which influences the cheese ripening rate). Afterwards, the ripened cheese is salted (2 kg salt per 10 kg of cheese) and kneaded by hand until the cheese no longer sticks to the hand.

The already-kneaded Chogi is placed into the guda to ripen there for at least 20 days, after which the cheese will be ready for consumption and sale.

Chogi is distinguished by its specific spicy aroma and taste, and at +12 0C has a shelf life of more than one year.

Tenili Cheese

Tenili cheese is a Meskhetian (where ethnic Turks formerly inhabited Georgia) cheese made in Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions. The cheese is made from sheep or cow’s milk: most important is that the milk must have a high fat content.

The recipe of Tenili cheese is very long and difficult; in fact Meskhetians used to prepare it only for celebrations.

Pieces of cheese are added to boiling water to soften, and these pieces are made pliable. The pieces of softened cheese are then pressed together. Then, the cheese is repeatedly stretched into thinner and thinner strands.

Kalti

Photo/LEVAN AVLABRELI

This type of cheese is found in mountainous regions. It was a staple food for shepherds and still is, because it perfectly kills hunger.

It is easily transported and is of an utmost importance for shepherds who live a nomadic life. Kalti is saturated with lots of useful substances and serves as a kind of “live pharmacy.” Manufacturing kalti is very difficult.

Kobi

Kobi is made of semi-dried or fresh milk. This delicious cheese is amazingly delicious with Kakhetian bread.