Soleno Kiselo Mleko Yogurt
Milk and milk products - North Macedonia
Soleno Kiselo Mleko, Kaymak Soleno kiselo mleko translates directly to “salty sour milk.” This product, also called kaymak locally (which means “strained yogurt”), is a traditional dairy product traditionally made from raw sheep milk, that today is also made with cow’s milk. It has historically been made in the area of Centar Zupa in the Debar region of central western Macedonia, near the Albanian border. This region is comprised of 23 villages and includes in its borders Mt. Stogovo and Debar Lake, and is an area mainly inhabited by Macedonian Muslims. Soleno kiselo mleko has an unsurpassed flavor thanks to milk from animals that graze in local pastures rich in thyme and other aromatic plants. It is made during the animal’s lactation period from April to early September, and in the past was mainly made in the month of August to be stored and consumed as a substitute for cheese during winter months. Production begins by heating the milk over low heat and mixing with a wooden spoon until the milk froths. It is then removed and cooled to 40°C. As it cools, the skin that appears on the milk’s surface is removed. Maya or a natural started produced by the cheesemaker from the previous day’s production of yogurt is added in a ratio of 20 milliliters to 10 liters of milk. The milk mixture is covered and stored for four to six hours. After curdling, it is stored at 10°C for ten to twelve hours before being mixed again and the curd hung in a cloth in the shade of a tree for two days to strain off the whey. The strained mixture is then mixed with about 100 grams of salt before being stored in wooden or earthen pots, with the surface covered with a layer of melted fat that helps to preserve the product. At this point, it may be stored in a cold room for up to one year. Coating the wooden containers entirely with sheep fat can extend the shelf life. The finished product is creamy whitish-yellow, very soft, and nearly liquid (similar to yogurt). It has a pleasant fragrance and a sour taste. Today, soleno kiselo mleko is mainly produced for home consumption, but also for sale in small quantities at for weekend markets in Debar. It is also used among locals to barter for flours, eggs, fat or other goods. As a result of a larger number of sheep flocks in this Centar Zupa in the past, there was a greater production of this salty sour milk; but today due to the significant reduction in the number of animals, the production of this product is reduced. Soleno kiselo mleko is still made in the home in a number of local villages, but many people in the area have also emigrated to other countries in search of other work. Poor infrastructure and roads means it is difficult for the producers of soleno kiselo mleko to sell their product at good prices at other markets. Thus, without the farmers who maintain this agricultural biodiversity, this food tradition and way of life may be lost.