Cretan Dairy Products
Crete leads the word in cheese consumption. Cretans love cheese rather than milk. Many dishes of the traditional Cretan cuisine are based on local dairy products; however, in Crete cheese is eaten alone throughout the day either as accompaniment or as appetizer, main meze or desert, while the Cretan graviera topped with honey is everyone’s favourite breakfast or supper.
Traditional farming methods rely on centuries-long experience. The only basic difference from the past is that nowadays milk processing is not carried out at the sheep hut next door but in modern facilities.
Here are the most emblematic cheeses of Crete:
Galomyzithra (the name translates literally to milk myzithra) is made following the simplest cheese making process: the milk is left to sour and once naturally oxidized, it becomes cheese.
Graviera Kritis, Crete’s flagship cheese, is made mostly with sheep’s milk, left to mature for 3 to 6 months. It has a rich, sweet, buttery and slightly salted aftertaste.
Kefalotyri is made with a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk that is left to mature for three months before it reaches retailers. It has a slightly salty piquant flavour, a pleasant aroma and a firm texture filled with holes.
Myzithra or Athotyros
Myzithra in eastern Crete or athotyros in Chania is made from the whey separated from the cheese making process of another cheese. Hard athotyros tastes absolutely divine; actually, it’s the dried and mature version of myzithra.
Xinomyzithra (the name means sour myzithra in Greek) has been granted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) distinction. A white soft creamy cheese made from the milk that is left after graviera cheese is set, enriched with a small quantity of sheep’s or goat’s milk.
Xinogalo (the name translates literally as sour milk) is a white creamy cheese. The milk is salted and left to sour for one week. Due to the fermentation process followed and rennet addition, this cheese has a unique favour resembling sour strained yogurt.
The name translates literally as thick milk from Chania, the region in Western Crete where it is exclusively produced. It has a velvety texture like yogurt and a slightly tangy flavour. It is made directly from milk. This cheese is used in the bougatsa prepared in Chania.
Staka and stakovoutiro
Stakovoutiro and staka are two emblematic dairy products used in Cretan cuisine. According to the traditional recipe, under constant stirring over low heat the crust from sheep’s or goat’s milk through the addition of salt and a small quantity of flour produces a rich cream, staka in Greek and the clarified butter left, stakovoutiro.