Mish Cheese

Ark of taste
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Mish cheese is made by fermenting cheese in brine for several months or years. It may be similar to cheese that has been found in the tomb of the First Dynasty Pharoah Hor-Aha at Saqqara, from 3200 B.C. It is generally prepared at home, although some is sold in local markets. Peasants use it as a staple food. When ripe it is a yellowish brown colour, and tastes sharp, salty and pungent.

Although details of traditional mish cheese making differ from one area to another, and even from home to home in the same part of the country, the basic steps of the preparation are essentially the same. The first step in mish cheese making is the preparation of karish cheese. Then, cubes of karish cheese (8 cm2) are incubated under microaerophilic conditions in a large clean earthenware pot (ballas or zallaa). The space between the pieces of cheese is filled with whole milk, skimmed milk or buttermilk, known as laban khad, and about 10% edible salt is added. Then are added kosba (the cake obtained after extracting the oil from sesame seeds), morta (the precipitate found after the boiling of butter for the manufacture of butter oil), together with one or more of the following oriental spices and medicinal plants: fenugreek (Trigonella feanum graecum), red pepper (Capsicum frutescens var. faseiculatum), hot pepper (Capsicum frutcscens var. chilli), paprika (Capsicum frutescens var. tetragonium), black pepper (Piper nigrum), grains and flowers of anise (Pimpinella anisurn), cumin (Cumin cyminum), fennel (Foeniculum officinalis), khella (Ammi visnaga), clove (Syxgium aromaticus), nutmeg (Areca catchus), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and nigella (Nigella sativa). The fruits of sweet green peppers (Capsicurn frutescens var. grosum) and some old mish (as a natural starter from 2-7% of the whole mixture to be pickled) must be added.
The spiced milk covering the curd should reach the neck of the ballas, and the opening is then covered by means of a palm leaf sheath (fibres and fibre vascular bundles) and a piece of cloth. After that, the ballas is tightly sealed by means of a mud paste mixed with chaff. The hard paste keeps the contents under partially anaerobic conditions during ripening, which requires one year of storage in a warm place, or transfer from time to time to a sunny place.

The process of producing this cheese, also named gebna adema, in the earthenware pot provides a means for conserving dairy products in hot, arid environments. This tradition is being lost, despite its importance as an environmentally friendly means of conservation.

Mish is eaten as a side in meals. It is eaten in small quantities due to its strong flavor.

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Milk and milk products

Nominated by:Sara Pozzi - Nawaya