Ayvalık kirlihanım peyniri
Kirlihanım is a sheep milk whey cheese made from the left over from the making of Sepet (“basket”) cheese.
Whey is heated to 90° and left to coagulate. The curded whey is then drained in perforated moulds and left to drain for 7-8 Hours. Once drained, the whey cheese sprinkled with a thin layer of salt then left for 3-4 days. The cheese is thenplaced on wooden shelves in an airy room and for about 1 month, are regularly turned to ensure that they dry evenly. Once a light layer of grey-white moulds forms on the surface, which become brownish on its edges it is ready to consume. At this stage the mouldy cheese has a soft consistency. It can be washed and eaten as it is or baked to produce a dry and faintly caramelised flavour.
The cheese darkens and hardens at the edges when baked and then keeps for a longer period. This whey cheese is pure white when first produced but after 20-30 days mould forms on the surface, hence the name kirlihanım, meaning “dirty lady”.
This very peculiar cheese is traditional of the hinterland of Ayvalyk, in the north Aegean region at the foot of Ida mountain, renowned for its olive oil, and sheep shepherding. it was once produced as a way to preserve whey cheese in times of abundance of sheep milk. Only a handful of producers are still able to make kirlihanim cheese, and only a few know about it. But those who do, consider it a unique meze – Turkish starters.