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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.


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


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