Gorcola Cheese

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Gürcili, Çüründük, Çürük, Çürnük

Produced in the Posof-Hanak districts of Ardahan and the Savsat district of Artvin in northeastern Turkey and in parts of Georgia, Gorcola is a local type of cheese. Gorcola cheese is a tasty and fatty cheese, white or light cream in color, granular in texture, and 3-8 mm in diameter. It is generally produced from skimmed cow’s milk. The cheese is mostly made during the summer months (June-July). During maturation, the cheese develops mold and becomes green, after which it is known locally as ggöğermis gorcola (maturated/moldy gorcola).  

To make the cheese, milk is filtered through a cotton cloth and left to ferment. It is then poured into a large container and boiled until it coagulates. The cooled coagulated mixture is put into cloth bags and left to filter for 7-8 hours under a press. The curd obtained following the filtering operation is crumbled, spread into a layer 2-3 cm deep on a cloth, and left to dry for 2-3 days in open air. During this time, the cheese’s moisture evaporates and a very sharp odor develops. After this stage, the cheese is called gorcola in the region. The gorcola is crumbled by hand and put into a cloth, which is then folded in half and placed into a deep container. The cheese remains here for 1.5 to 2 days, and is crumbled by hand every 2-3 hours. Then, about 1 handful of fine ground salt is added for every 1 kg cheese and the cheese is pounded into an animal skin with the help of a mallet. The open end of the skin is covered with a finger’s thickness of salt and tied with a rope. The filled skin is then turned upside down, buried in damp soil at a depth of about 50-100 cm, and left to mature for about 2-3 months. Finally, the cheese is taken out of the soil and kept at room temperature until it is consumed. The cheese is ready for consumption at the beginning of winter, and can be kept unspoiled until the start of the next cheese season.  

Gorcola cheese is produced by local traditional methods to meet family needs and is consumed in the same regions where it is produced. Because production of the cheese is seasonal and restricted to a very specific area, or because it is not possible to produce it industrially, relatively small quantities are made. There are no statistics available on production. This product is made at home by women and there is no developed commercial dairy production. Recently, since there is a growing trend for local and authentic products, some producers started selling this product via their websites. However, in general terms it is not easy to buy this product on the market. The production process and product itself may be lost, however, as there is a lack of younger people learning to make the cheese. Younger generations are also moving to big cities, out of the production area. In addition, since it is a very time consuming job to produce homemade cheese, people usually prefer to buy cheese from markets. Hygiene rules and procedures enforced due to EU accession period are also affecting the ability of this cheese to be sold.

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