Armenian cheese is a really great alternative to Italian mozzarella and other types of such well-known cheese types, as it is quite rich in flavors.
No matter what else decorates the Armenian table, cheese, or as Armenians call it, panir should always be there. Armenians love cheese and they eat it for breakfast, lunch and even dinner.
A sandwich with a piece of bread, a slice of Armenian cheese, some other ingredients like greens, tomatoes and cucumbers is the simplest, yet tastiest Armenian snack. We can even say that it’s the most beloved snack of most Armenians.
But what is Armenian cheese? What types are there? How different is it from other types of cheese? Let’s find out here.
Unique features of Armenian cheese
1) The most sustainable food for Armenians
There were times when Armenian shepherds would take bread and cheese with them to fields to sustain themselves.
In fact, it’s really quite affordable and suitable food for those who are working in the fields. Furthermore, it compensated the lack of meat.
Eat bread and cheese and work with ease.
The traditional way of making Armenian cheese is very interesting. First, the sheep’s milk is fermented and then it is formed in molds and finally, it is aged in jars filled with brine.
Armenian cheeses are very soft and delicious.
2) Armenians know how to make salty cheese
What is noteworthy, Armenians have a special love for salty cheese. And overall, Armenians are really big cheese fans, thus they buy it in large amounts and store it in brine water.
Salty Armenian cheese is not just a booster for the palate but it’s a real necessity in hot summers. It is even said that the inhabitants of Armenian mountains traditionally use less salt than Armenians in the lowlands.
But in general, the fondness of salty cheese is so ingrained in Armenians that it seems they have special taste buds for these cheeses.
What’s more interesting, Armenian-American cookbooks have recipes that show how to a make salty string cheese from Mozzarella or Montreal cheese.
3) Texture and Flavor
The texture of traditional Armenian cheese is usually distinguished by irregular holes. Furthermore, there is a funny Armenian saying that cheese without those “eyes” is like a nice woman with only one eye.
Armenian cheese will be the perfect type of cheese especially for those who love strong flavored and rich Roquefort, Feta and pungent Bleu cheeses.
Armenian cheese that you should try #1 | Chanakh Cheese
The production of cheese goes back to more than four thousand years.
According to one of the legends, the Arabian merchant Canan went on a long journey. He took food with him and also milk filled into the vessel, but when it was getting dark, he stopped for the lodging and decided to drink milk before sleep.
Nonetheless, instead of milk from the sheep’s stomach the white clot appeared in the vessel. Disappointed Canan ate the piece of it and was pleasantly surprised by the nice flavor of the new product.
Because of that happy incident, today we now enjoy the wide variety of cheese. As there is no shortage of milk-processing factories in Armenia you can find an abundance of cheese types, such as Gouda, Swiss and Yellow brier, Holland, Bleu and many others.
The two most popular and traditional ones that are sold in almost all Armenian supermarkets and stores are Chanakh and Lori.
Without any doubt, these types of cheeses are the flagships of the cheese-making industry of Armenia. Both are salty and are aged in brine.
The distinctive feature of Lori cheese is that it has a firmer texture compared to Chanakh, as it is curved in heated twice, but still Chanakh is as delicious as Lori. This cheese is spicy, salty, solid and a bit brittle.
Armenian cheese that you should try #2 | Goat Cheese
Vayots Dzor region’s farms are famous for producing cheese from goat milk. Feta-like salty goat cheese is probably one of the most purchased products of today’s Armenian cheese market.
Armenian cheese that you should try #3 | Lori cheese
Formerly, Swiss and Yellow cheeses of this region were especially popular in the entire Soviet Union. Moreover, Armenia was the main source of Swiss cheese for Russia. Swiss cheese has a long history in Armenia that goes back to World War One.
Lori’s pastures were covered with different herbs and grasses and that’s why the milk of sheep that fed in this land was extremely tasty and of high quality. This fact caught the attention of Swiss entrepreneurs and they invested in cattle breeding in Armenia with the main goal of dairy production.
Today Lori cheese is one of the most beloved cheeses in Armenia. This type of rennet cheese is produced from natural pasteurized milk. It has a soft texture and the color of the dough is white-yellow, holes inside have various shapes and sizes.
Armenian cheese that you should try #4 | Motal
Want some rare and antiquated type of Armenian cheese? We’ve got one. It is a very soft cheese of white sheep’s milk that is aged in a lambskin bag.
Motal is a unique cheese as it is produced only in Zangezour and Artsakh. The lambskin bag where the cheese is pressed is called tiks. These bags are quite handy, practical and safe as clay pots can get broken.
This age-old Armenian cheese is made from wild herbs that are produced in the mountains of Armenia. This cheese can age for more than six months.
Armenian cheese that you should try #5 | Armenian String Cheese
Armenian string cheese is an exotic one if you are looking for a mild, milky cheese with stretch. The preparation of this peelable cheese is quite similar to mozzarella.
First, the curds are drained, heated, then they are stretched, pulled, and twisted into braid-shaped rope. Armenian traditional string cheese is made with a white base as the type of milk that is used is from an aged goat or sheep.
One of the most popular types of brine string cheese is Chechil that is produced in the Armenian Highlands. It is also called ‘tel’ or ‘hyusats’ cheese. Before consumption Chechil is matured in brine and sometimes smoked. Armenians enjoy its mild and slightly salty flavor literally anytime of the day.
Armenian cheese that you should try 6 | Yeghegnadzor cheese
Yeghegnadzor buried cheese is a traditional Armenian cheese that you won’t be able to taste anywhere else in the world.
This national cheese is made from cow or goat milk. It is matured and stored in special clay pots and buried in the mountains for approximately 6 months.
Yeghegnadzor cheese is regarded as one of the most famous steamed cheeses (horac panir) in Armenia. The cheese has white coloring, is quite soft and cracks easily.
It is characterized for its sharp and salty taste. Due to the greens it also acquires even more unique flavors. The technology of the preparation of this cheese comes from centuries, that is why it is very important to keep them.
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