Turkmen Fringe Cheese

Milk and milk products - Turkey

The term Türkmen refers to the Turkmen people of Turkmenistan and adjacent parts of Central Asia and Turkey and to the Turkomans of Iraq and Syria. During the Ottoman period these nomads were known by the names of Türkmen and Yörük or Yürük. These names were generally used to describe their way of life, rather than their ethnic origin; Türkmens are settled, Yörüks are nomads.Türkmen saçak peyniri translates to Turkmen fringe cheese. It is produced in the cities of Kars and Ardahan in the East Anatolia region of Turkey. It is string shaped, odorless, white, semi-soft, easy to chew and has a milky taste. It is made by Turkmen women in their homes in limited quantities for family consumption. Normally non-fat cow’s milk is used, though it can also be made with sheep’s milk. The fat skimmed off is used to make butter. Holstein cows are most common, but there are still some native breeds used, such as Anatolian Red and Zavot. Turkmen fringe cheese can be consumed fresh or aged in bags made from animal skins.In the traditional cheesemaking method, the milk is first left at room temperature and then boiled. During boiling, whey from the previous batch is as added as rennet. Boiling continues until the milk starts to curdle and then is left to cool. Then the curd is kneaded and stretched to develop a stringy shape. Then the curd is stretched and rubbed continuously with salt until it becomes like thin spaghetti. After this final step, the cheese can be eaten or preserved in a cold place for 1-2 years. When ready for consumption, it should first be soaked in water to remove the excess salt. The cheese can be also pressed in animal skin bags, which are sealed and buried in soil to age and develop molds. After 10 – 15 days, the bag is taken out and needles are used to perforate the bag to speed the mold development. The bag is reburied for 20 – 30 days, after which it is left outside to air out. It can be kept in the skin bag until ready to be eaten. Human migration out of rural areas and into cities, along with stricter European Union hygiene rules, make this traditional product at risk of disappearing.