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Sirdeleh, ambarees

Sirdeleh, Ambarees ‘Siredeleh’ or ‘ambarees’ is not a rennet-coagulated cheese, but rather fermented raw goat milk. It is produced in the Bekaa Valley in eastern central Lebanon where it is called ‘ambaress’ and in the western central Shouf area where it is called sirdeleh. Method of production is almost the same in both areas. However, in the Bekaa, Ambaress could be produced by mixing sheep milk to goat milk whereas in the Shouf, Siredelh is only produced from raw goats milk. It is prepared in large terra cotta jars with two openings: a wide opening on the top to add milk and coarse salt, and a small opening used for drainage that is plugged a willow tree twig wrapped in sterilized cloth. The jars are produced especially for sirdeleh/ambarees production. They are necessary for efficient production because they absorb the moisture of the milk and keep it at a cool and constant temperature. The jars are filled with milk salted at 20:1 ratio and are covered with sterilized cloth lined with 1 kg of coarse sea salt to inhibit mold growth. After 7 days of fermentation, the whey is drained. After 14 days (and two drainages), a small amount of the curd is removed from the top of the jar and fresh salted raw milk is added to bring the level back to the rim. This step is repeated every 3 to 7 days for the entire season of goat milk production (mid-spring to fall). Sirdeleh or ambarees is thought to reach its peak of ripeness and flavor after a fermentation of four months. It has a creamy texture and a slightly sour taste. This product is considered one of the oldest methods of preserving food. If kept at 5°C or less, the product can be kept for up to one year. It can only be kept at room temperature if it is dried and stored under olive oil. It was first used by shepherds to preserve goats’ milk during the non-milking season of winter. It is possible to buy small quantities of sirdeleh or ambrees on the market at the Beirut Earth Market, Souk el Tayeb, women’s rural associations or co-ops as well as shops that sell traditional local products. Nowadays, it is more common to find versions made from cow milk, which is not the traditional way. Also, labneh, which is drained yogurt, has been more industrialized and commercialized replacing the consumption this historic product.

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Mount Lebanon

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Milk and milk products

Nominated by:Barbara Abdeni Massaad e Chirine Alayan