When you step into a hut in the upper-earth mountains of Kassos, you lose track of time. Everything inside these eerie workshops of traditional cheese makers, where the alchemy of the "Maziria" is performed, makes you want to jump back in time to times long gone. How many years ago? Maybe a hundred, maybe a thousand, maybe two thousand.
Elaiki cheese is produced from sheep or goat milk; the taste is salty, buttery, and spicy, with a semi-white colour. Whey cheese (Mizitra) is covered with goat and sheep butter. When the lambs were slaughtered in March and the sheep began to be milked, they made cheese in the mountains in small stone houses called "mitata. The producers made whey cheeses too (Mizitra), salted them, and put them on wooden boards on the roof of the mitata, where these cheeses were dried and smoked when pieces of wood and herbs like thyme were burned in special stone structures called "paranesti". To prolong the life of the cheese, they cut the dry Mizitra into pieces, stacked it in clay pots or other large containers, and poured the butter on top until the whole Mizitra was covered. Store them in dark places with humidity and at as low a temperature as possible. Drying the Mizitra was not enough, especially if they had a large quantity. In those years, households had neither electricity nor electrical appliances to maintain the food they had. So, they cut the dry Mizitra into pieces, stacked it in Pythias or in other large containers, and poured the butter on top until the whole Mizitra was covered. Store them in dark places with humidity and at as low a temperature as possible. The climate on the island of Kasos is dry with limited vegetation, but the flora is rich with many aromatic plants in combination with the fresh breeze from the sea.
It is mainly produced by livestock farms in Mitata. Nowadays, there is a small traditional dairy that produces all the traditional products of the island and other dairy products.
Mizitra was the base of the shepherd’s diet during the winter months. For breakfast, they had tea with Elaiki, and for meals, bread with Elaiki was also to accompany the wine. This was the most common treatment in shepherd houses during the Christmas and New Year period.
Due to changes in food habits and the high fat content of this product, it is not preferred by most consumers.