Captivated by the Caucasus: How to master traditional Adygei cheese at home

Adygei (or Circassian) cheese

Vasilisa Malinka
This traditional cheese from the Caucasus region in South Russia is easy to make and ideal for staying healthy, especially when spring is around the corner.

The Caucasians are well known for their fine physical shape, strength and endurance. They stay young and healthy well into old age and many live to be a hundred years old. The secret of this extraordinary health and longevity can be found in their special national diet.

Traditionally, the people of Adygea consume a lot of dairy products, and Adygei cheese is a major part of it. This cheese is a prominent dish in Circassian cuisine, and its name derives from the place it originally came from - the Republic of Adygea in the North Caucasus. This mild type of cheese does not melt when baked or fried, and can be crumbled.

Adygei cheese first came to Russia in the middle of the 19th century, but its true popularity only took off in the Soviet era. In 1980, Adygei cheese was supplied to the Moscow Olympics. This is also the year when it became an officially registered brand and mass production began. An article published about Adygei cheese in the Soviet-era magazine, Dairy Industry, claimed that: "This cheese smells like fresh milk and wildflowers, counts among dietary foods and has high nutritional value."

No wonder this cheese has so many advantages; after all, the local cows of Adygea graze on pastures in the hills of the Caucasus, where plants enjoy a longer growing season that grants them a greater number of vitamins and microelements. All this, of course, impacts the quality of milk, and therefore, the cheese!

In September 2009, Adygei cheese received the prestigious trademark status of a ‘product with a geographical indication, and only companies in Adygea now have the right to use the name: “Adygei cheese”.

This cheese is ideal for staying healthy, when combined with proper nutrition and exercise. Most importantly, however, this cheese is easy to make, and it’s absolutely delicious! 

Ingredients for the cheese:

  • 1L of kefir
  • 4L of whole milk
  • 20g salt

Cooking: 

1. In a medium sized pot slowly bring the kefir to a simmer. Take it off the heat and let the whey separate from the milk solids. Strain the liquid from the pot and place the whey in a jar. Let the whey sit at room temperature to sour for 2-3 days.

2. Once the whey has soured prepare your milk. In a big pot, slowly warm the milk until it starts to simmer, stirring constantly. Gradually add all the whey to the milk and continue stirring until the liquid starts separating into solids and whey.

3. Take the pot off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Prepare a strainer with a cheesecloth and a bowl underneath it. Strain all the solids and press them a little with a spoon. Let sit for 30 minutes.

4. Carefully remove the cheese from a cheesecloth and rub with salt on both sides. Place it back to the cheesecloth and let sit in the strainer for 2-3 hours, turning it upside down every 30 minutes.

5. Now place a small plate on top of your cheese and put something heavy on top of it to weight it down. Put your cheese in the fridge and forget about it for 6-12 hours.

This all requires quite a bit of time, but let’s be honest, it wasn’t much work for such a delicious outcome. Priyatnogo appetita! 

Read more: 10 Russian cheeses you've GOT to try 

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