Salcë Shakulli (Yogurt Cream in a Sack)
Cheeses and Dairy Products - Albania
Salcë shakulli is a product made from drained yogurt aged in an animal skin sack that is made in the mountain pastures of the Përmet region of southern Albania, particularly in Trebeshinë, Dhëmbel, Nemërckë and Postenan. It is a traditional product of Përmeti shepherds who discovered this method of hanging the drained yogurt to conserve it for long periods of time. Salcë shakulli is not a product that is sold commercially, but made for personal consumption by the shepherds.
To make it, first the animal skin sack is prepared. A goat or sheep is slaughtered in December or January, and the hide with the animal’s fur still attached on one side is cured with salt. The salted leather is placed in a cloth sack and hung for six months. Then, the animal’s legs are tied together to leave only one opening at the neck. The leather sack is then inflated with air and the fur shaved off to create a very clean surface. The sack is then turned inside out and is ready to fill with approximately 25-30 liters of yogurt. This stage of production generally takes place in August or September.
After adding the yogurt, salt is added and the hole (at the neck) is tied closed and everything is left to rest for five or six days. The leather softens by the second day, as moisture seeps out from the leather, which is then covered with salt to help open the pores and release this moisture from the yogurt’s whey. Salted milk is continuously added for five days to the mixture inside the leather sack, which ferments and turns to yogurt. The process of covering the outer skin with salt is also repeated each day, repeated until the sack is completely filled with yogurt and milk. Then, the sack is closed and hung for about 15 days, with the whey continually scraped off from the outside of the sack and recovered with salt. After this period, milk is added again and the leather sack is closed for good, ensuring that air cannot enter and spoil the yogurt. The final product is hung for 60-75 days, and during this time the moisture continues to be removed from the outside and the outside is continually salted. Generally by November, the sack stops losing whey and is considered ready for consumption.
Salcë shakulli is nearly unknown outside the Përmet region, so market opportunities for this product are limited. The number of shepherds still grazing their herds in the high mountain pastures is diminishing very quickly; therefore the number of producers is also decreasing. In addition, new hygiene rules adopted to bring Albania in line with European Union regulations makes it impossible for local diary producers to comply with such requirements, hence preventing them from accessing the market.