Turkish Kopanisti

Milk and milk products - Turkey

Kopanisti is a salty, spicy cheese. In eastern Turkey, it is traditionally made in Çeşme and Karaburun of İzmir province. It is also made on the Greek Islands that lay in front of the İzmir area in the Aegean Sea. It owes its special hot taste to fungal growth. Kopanisti in Greek is used to describe something that has been beaten. Traditionally kopanisti is made with goat’s milk, beaten in a locally woven basket and then salted. Another version is the one stored in an animal skin. To make it, first the milk is cooked at 28-30°C with a starter until it gets thick. This procedure usually takes about 20–24 hours. After this, it is dried and salt is added. The manufacturer works the mixture by hand once every hour for the first 24 hours. Then the mixture is wrapped in a cotton cloth and placed in a pot with a stone placed on top of the cheese. This pressing method helps the cheese get rid of extra liquids. It remains in the cloth for a week in order to mature and let the mold grow. The most popular way of serving is in meze form, which means dry bread with kopanisti cheese, chopped tomatoes and olive oil. This cheese is also served without any additions as a meze to accompany the Turkish drink raki.   Kopanisti cheese making is a tradition only found in the İzmir peninsula and in some Greek islands. In the provinces of İzmir goat breeding and kopanisti cheese made from goat’s milk can be considered as an ancient traditions of nomadic people known as yörük in Turkish. The milk quality is high due to endemic plants grown in these areas and this gives a unique taste to kopanisti cheese. Kopanisti cheese is mainly produced in the area for home consumption. There are very few producers left; however this cheese can be bought from producers via personal contacts. Many producers are facing economic problems that makes it difficult to continue raising animals. New generations do not want to work on the land due to the hard work and low amount of profit involved. As people leave rural areas to seek work in cities, only a couple of kopanisti cheesemakers are left in this area of Turkey.