How is Van Herby Cheese Made?

Herbed cheese is produced in the Eastern Anatolia region, especially in Van, in the provinces of Bitlis, Siirt, Batman, Hakkari and Kars. Herbed cheese, which is the most famous of Van breakfasts, is of two types, dry and in brine. Dry cheese is more preferred.

The milk used in making Van herbed cheese is sheep’s milk and it is prepared especially in the spring season when grass and milk are abundant. From time to time, cow’s or goat’s milk can be mixed with sheep’s milk. The herbs used in it are mountain mint, wild garlic, mountain thyme and Mustafa flower, which are collected from the mountains and plateaus during flowering. Apart from this, there are about 25 kinds of herbs.The milk that is milked freshly in sheep is filtered and cleaned and then boiled. Boiling milk is cooled and its temperature is brought to 30 degrees. Rennet is added to the milk that comes to a suitable temperature. The milk to which yeast is added coagulates in an average of 1.5 – 2 hours. While the milk is coagulating, that is, curd is forming, peppermint, wild garlic, mountain thyme and Mustafa flower are thoroughly washed and prepared to meet with cheese. A cloth bag is used to turn the curd into cheese. This bag is thoroughly washed and cleaned. When the curd is ready, it means it’s time to place it in the cloth bag. One layer of curd is placed in the cloth bag, layer by layer with one layer of grass. When the sorting process is finished, the mouth of the bag is tightly tied. The next step is to let the cheese drain. The tightly tied bag is placed in a strainer, and a weight is placed on it to drain all the water. Straining time is 5-6 hours on average. The curd that has been filtered and turned into cheese is taken out of the cloth bag at the end of the 6-hour rest period. The cheese is preserved as a head or by cutting into 2-3 cm thickness .Van herbed cheese can be stored in salty whey, that is, in brine, but it will not last very long in this way.

Alternatively, the cheese molds are dry salted and then filled into earthen cubes or plastic drums. In this process, it is very important that there are no spaces between the cheeses. After the tightly filled cheese cans are closed with grape leaves, they are buried in the ground and the cheese is waited for ripening. at least 3 months must be waited for the cheese to mature. If it is kept for up to 7 months, a better quality and delicious cheese is obtained.