Making ladotiri – the local cheese of Zakynthos

Our good friend, Yorgo, is a self-sufficiency guru.  Not in the modern “let’s escape consumerism and go back to our roots” kind of way but out of tradition, inclination, and to a large part, necessity.  A lot of the people around here have never escaped from their “roots” and take pride in growing a lot of their own food.

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Yorgo and his ‘girls’

Yorgo and his wife, Sofia, have a vegetable plot, fruit trees, olive groves, rabbits, chickens, a few goats, and a sheep, and we’ve been lucky to benefit from his generosity. The goats are a fairly new addition to his farming family; the reason for this is that Sofia loves to make λαδοτúρι (ladotiri), which literally means “oil cheese”, as it’s preserved in barrels of olive oil while it matures, producing a hard, spicy cheese.

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Sofia placing the curds into the mold to drain

I had let it be known that I was interested to see how the cheese was made, so a few days later I got the phone call to say that cheese making was scheduled for the next morning.

First of all fresh goat’s milk was warmed on the stove, and rennet was added.  The best cheese is apparently made from a mixture of the milk from both goats and sheep, but Yorgo’s sheep (he only has one) is currently not producing any milk. After about 30 minutes, the rennet had caused the mixture to thicken, after which Sofia stirred it to separate the curds from the whey.

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Wheels of ladotiri drying before being placed in the oil barrel

After leaving it to sit again (cheese making is a very civilized process that provides lots of time for coffee and a chat), it was ready to pour into the mold. The cheese slowly drained its excess whey and by mid-afternoon it would be ready for salting on the outside, after which it would be left to dry for a few days.  Once the cheese has dried it will then be stored in barrels of olive oil to mature for a few months before it is considered ready to eat.  Hopefully it’ll be ready to try before we have to leave Zakynthos.