February 16, 2019

Domiati

What in the world is domiati? It's an Egyptian brined cheese.


Also called "white cheese," it originated in the Mediterranean area where mountain caves don't exist. This is notable because most cheeses we're familiar with (cheddar, colby, Swiss, etc.) require curing in relatively cool temperatures, like those found in caves. Cheeses made in the warm Mediterranean climate must be cured and stored another way, usually brine. Feta, which is a Greek cheese, is a familiar example.

I have the same problem, i.e., a warm humid climate during cheese making season, and no (artificial) cheese cave. Hence I've been experimenting with cheeses that don't require environmentally controlled curing (see my blog post "Cheesemaking Challenges in a Hot Climate.") The suggestion to try domiati came from Toirdhealbheach Beucail, who blogs at The Forty-Five (thanks TB!)

There isn't a recipe for domiati in Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making (a book that I don't use), nor in David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking (a book that I use a lot). So it took a bit of searching around the internet to find recipes. As with other cheeses, proportions and directions vary a bit, but the basic method is the same for all of them. All recipes had the unique step of adding the salt to the milk first, rather than to the curds last.

Domiati

The Cheese

2 gallons milk (I use raw goat milk)
1/2 cup kefir (could use plain yogurt or cultured buttermilk)
2 regular doses rennet (I use powdered, so for me that's 1/16 tsp dissolved)
3 tablespoons coarse salt (other recipes call for more)

Mix salt in 1 and 1/2 gallons of the milk. Heat the remaining milk to 170°F (76°C) and add to the salted milk. When milk temp is 105°F (40°C) stir in kefir. [Memory jog: that's what the recipe called for, I cooled it to 90°F (32°C).] Add dissolved rennet and mix thoroughly. Cover, keep in a warm place, and let stand 3 hours or until coagulated. Pour off whey and let drain for several hours. Save the whey. Place the cheese in a mold and let it continue to drain until dry (6 hours or so). Then place in ceramic crock, cover with brine (recipe below), cover, weight if necessary (I use a saucer), and store for several months to age.

The Brine

1 quart warm whey
1/4 cup canning salt (or cheese salt)

Dissolve the salt in the whey. If more brine is needed you can make a whole or half-batch using the same proportions of whey to salt. Submerging the cheese is important because any part not covered with brine will spoil.

Check the cheese periodically and top off with more brine as necessary.


I'm going to note here that I stored my crock in the refrigerator. I don't know if that's the tradition in Egypt (where average summer temps are about the same as my non-air conditioned pantry), but I didn't have the nerve to try it on a pantry shelf. Dan and I liked the cheese, so I think this summer I'll do an experimental one and age in the pantry. We'll see how well the brine does then!

We cut into ours four months after I made it. I was surprised that it wasn't saltier, like my feta is. On the other hand, I cut my feta into slices for brining, so there's more surface area to absorb salt.  The domiati was just right.

It's a soft cheese, melts well, and is very tasty. Best of all I didn't have to wax it nor cure in a cheese cave! Conclusion? This one's a keeper.

Domiati © February 2019 by Leigh

26 comments:

Sheryl said...

Hi Leigh this cheese sounds fantastic and looks good too,I have never made cheese before,it all sounds very interesting and very yummy xx

Sharon in Surrey said...

I've never tried cheese making myself but this one is so simple I might be tempted. I love Feta cheese & brined eggs & veggies. I may give this one a try.

J.L. Murphey said...

Doesn't the 105 temp kill the the active culture in the kefir? It seems a bit warm. Is the cheese slicing texture or crumbly, or spreadable? Cockeyed Jo

Leigh said...

Sheryl, be forewarned, cheesemaking is addictive!

Sharon, I've been intrigued with brined cheeses for awhile now. I think they are a good alternative to the more familiar kinds.

Jo, you know, your comment is jogging my memory. When I made it at the end of last summer, I wrote my steps on scrap paper and not in my cheese journal. But I lost the notes and had to write this from the original recipe. I was kicking myself because I knew I made some changes but couldn't remember what. I think you're right, and I let the milk cool more than 105 for the very reason you mention.

The cheese holds it's shape but the slices break easily. It will likely firm up even more from the brine as time goes on.

Stephanie said...

Interesting. It's funny I pop in here to see what you have been up to and see a cheese making blog today. I am planning on trying my hand at it today. I'm torn between paneer & mozzarella. I'm not sure which one to try first. I do have the book that you recommended The Art of Natural Cheesemaking.

Leigh said...

Stephanie, paneer is the easiest! No need to take the milk's temperature and mess with starters! It has a delicious flavor and is another a favorite here. I like it because it's quick and easy and can be frozen. I make lots of mozz too, but there's a knack to that one.

Mama Pea said...

Looks like a real success to me, and the method appeals to me also. If only you didn't have to wait so long to see if a cheese was a success . . . or a failure. Obviously, that's my impatient nature shining through!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, that's the trouble with most cheeses, they have to be aged for full flavor! Still, this is a good storage option for year-round cheese. :)

Quinn said...

Eqyptian folk must know a LOT about the traditions of keeping food in a hot climate! On the other hand, humidity changes things, doesn't it? I remember a New England colleague who visited research sites in Eqypt saying that, even though they all carried jugs of water to drink constantly throughout the day, they were sweating it out so fast they never had to pee.
Just keeping it real ;)

Kristina said...

I used to make white cheese. I sure do miss it too, but we have too many jobs to get done to put goats back onto the homestead. It looks delicious.

Nancy @ Little Homestead In Boise said...

Great idea and simple! I may try that...

Fiona said...

What a fantastic post. We too have that warm climate problem. Despite living in cave country we have no access to a cave. I do have a plethora of crocks though.
I think I will have to try this recipe with Katie Milk. Its interesting (and a bit annoying) but Lassie's milk is nowhere near as rich as Katies. We are going to dry Katie off in Mid March. So I had better get cheese making. Thank you.

Leigh said...

Quinn, I would love to get the scoop from someone who actually lives there and works with these food traditions! All the recipes I found were North American, which would certainly put a different perspective on it. Their summers are even hotter than ours, which I can't imagine!

Kristina, was it domiati or queso blanco? They are both called white cheese but from different parts of the world. Interesting, isn't it?

I don't know if you ever miss having goats, but I would especially miss all these delicious goat cheeses.

Nancy, definitely worth a try!

Fiona, rich milk always makes the best cheese, doesn't it? I was thrilled to have this recipe suggested to me.

Rose said...

This is really interesting...I have never known anyone that made cheese. This sounds delicious.

Harry Flashman said...

Looks pretty tasty. I bet it would be good with tomatoes and a loaf of garlic bread.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I find Domiati a treat - and the fact that it can be stored relatively easily is an additional bonus. To be fair, I do like brined cheeses...

wyomingheart said...

Wow, Leigh! I am certainly going to give this a try! Thanks for all this terrific information.

Leigh said...

Rose, I'd never heard of it either. I learn a lot from my blogging community!

Harry, ooo, that sounds really yummy.

TB, well, thank you for mentioning it to me! After trying my hand at feta I had been wondering about other brined cheeses. It's really nice to be able to make cheese suitable for my climate.

Wyomingheart, you're welcome! I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Cozy Thyme Cottage said...

Hi Leigh, I had never heard of that kind of cheese before. I don't make cheeses but admire you for doing so. I am working on gluten free sourdough things now. Nancy

Leigh said...

Nancy, I admire you for working on gluten free sourdough! Sounds like an excellent project.

Debbie - Mountain Mama said...

You're amazing, Leigh! I am anxious to try my hand at cheese-making but I find it intimidating. This looks great, I was wondering if it was similar to Feta but perhaps softer?

The Wykeham Observer said...

That looks like a good cheese! My mouth is watering. If it melts well, I would think it would be good on a cheese, tomato, olive sandwich.

painter101 said...

I've wanted to try cheesemaking for a long time but haven't attempted yet. Is this strictly a goat cheese, or could one use raw cow's milk? It is more available to us.

Leigh said...

Debbie, I don't know about amazing, just willing to experiment! I had a lot of failures my first several years of trying to make cheese. Happily, I didn't give up!

Phil, that sounds yummy! A good use for this cheese.

Painter101, indeed you can use cows milk! In fact, I think it is commonly made with cows milk, buffalo milk, or a mixture of the two.

Sam I Am...... said...

Fascinating! I have yet to try cheese making but want to. I use feta quite a bit. Could you use canned goats milk? Although again I might try and find someone I can buy from. I'm sure there are goats down here somewhere. I'm supposed to stay away from dairy but goats milk seems healthier to me and I love cheese! I would love nothing more than to live off the land...now if I could only get this house sold so I could concentrate on that! Your projects motivate me to do just that!

Leigh said...

Sam, the main thing about milk for making cheese is that it MUST NOT be ultra-pasteurized. The high temps totally destroy the protein molecules in milk so that they don't coagulate into curds, which are what cheese is made of. I'm guessing that the high heat and pressure of canning milk would cause the same problem. "Regular" pasteurization is okay.

People who can't digest cows milk can often consume goats milk because the fat molecules are smaller (and hence easier to digest). Definitely worth a try!