Cheese is one of nature’s favorite foods and Turkey boasts around 200 different kinds of delicious cheese. Baliksehir, in Turkey’s Marmara region, alone has 50 types of cheeses.
It plays a leading role in Turkish culinary culture and of course, all Turkish breakfast tables.
Each village or region in Turkey has its own way of producing the various cheeses that differ in taste and consistency.
Anatolia is one of the oldest lands in the world where the people have milked their livestock and made cheeses that were aged, eaten and enjoyed for thousands of years.
Today, Turkey’s cheese making villages are being discovered by gourmets both Turkish and foreign with their cheeses making their way from the villages to city shops and even foreign countries.
Here’s a look at the most popular varieties of cheese (peynir) found in Turkey.
Tulum Cheese is a very tasty cheese which varies greatly depending on the region it was made. It is cured in cloth or kidskin sacks and by removing the water of the curd, a crumbly texture is obtained. This crumbled curd is salted and packed firmly in the cloth, and aged for between 3 to 6 months. It’s during this time that the cheese gains its taste. It‘s usually made from goats milk and is traditionally served with salad and walnuts.
There is a type of Tulum cheese called ‘Izmir Tulum’ that’s nearly identical to real English mature cheddar. It’s more yellow, firm and fairly salty and just perfect melted in a toasted sandwich.
Ezine Cheese is a favorite with the Turkish people and is usually served at breakfast. This quality white cheese is made from either, sheep, goat or cow’s milk, depending on the season it’s produced.
It’s similar to ‘feta’ and is a staple cheese in Turkish households. It’s also known as ‘Beyar Peynir’ in Turkish.
Kasar Cheese is a yellow color and slightly rubbery. Taze or fresh kasar hasn’t been aged and is smooth and firm and is generally made from cow’s milk.
It’s very versatile and good for melting, grating or simply devouring. It’s used on pizzas or in hot sandwiches in Turkey.
Aged Kasar cheese or Eski Kasar as it’s known in Turkey is best produced in the city of Kars, in the northeastern region of Turkey.
The Kars variety of this popular cheese is usually made with either pure cow’s milk or a mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk.
As the cheese ages, it forms a crust and mold on the outside with the inside becoming dry and flaky.
This cheese is ideal for grating as a topping or filling for many dishes or as part of a cheese platter.
Stringy cheese or ‘Dil Peyniri’ as it’s known in Turkish has a milky flavor and is best eaten within a couple of days.
It is often sold in rectangular logs and pulled apart in stringy strips or cut into long chunks. Dil cheese is also great for melting and is very similar to Mozzarella.
Plaited cheese ‘Orgu Peyniri’ is a regional cheese from Diyarbakir in the southeastern region of Turkey. It’s a firm, hard and salty cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s often eaten for breakfast or used as an ingredient in some Turkish appetizers.
Labne Cheese is a very bright white cheese sold in tubs. It’s a spreadable cheese and very similar to cream cheese, but much lighter in texture. Labne is another breakfast favorite, especially with children due to its mild taste. It is also used in many desserts like cheesecake, savory pastries, pies and appetizers.
One of the older cheeses produced in Anatolia is Mihalic Cheese or Kelle which originated from Bursa. It can be compared closely to Parmesan Cheese.
During the Roman times a small village along the coast of the Marmara Sea had a way of making their milk last throughout the whole year. They would boil the milk and strain the curds with cloth and hang them, after they would store it in brine to become hard.
In the past it was made using raw sheep’s milk, but nowadays it’s made from cow’s milk or a combination of goat, sheep and cow’s milk due to insufficient supplies of sheep’s milk.
Mihalic cheese is a slightly firm yet elastic cheese with small holes. It’s a popular breakfast cheese but due to its salty taste is often used on pizza or in guvec (casserole) dishes.
Otlu (Herbed) Cheese originates from Van and is a very tasty and aromatic cheese.
Locals usually produce it during the spring when there’s an increase in sheep’s milk and growing herbs. There can be up to 25 different herbs that are added to Van Otlu cheese.
Gruyere Cheese is one of the most famous Turkish cheeses in the world with a rich odor and flavor. The traditional Gruyere cheese is usually made with pure cow’s milk or a mixture of cow’s and goat’s milk.