Around ten kilometers from the ancient city of Tyre is Majedl el Zoun, a small village of Muslim farmers is situated in a dry stony landscape, not far from the border with Israel. Their kechek el fouqara or “poor man’s cheese” in fact uses no milk, even though keshek is commonly made with goat’s milk yogurt and is produced using wheat bulgur fermented in water and sea salt, following an ancient recipe that has undergone modifications and sparked many variants. It is also called jebnet el burghol (burghul cheese), and was a very common product until 50 years ago, because the poorest people often did not even possess a goat or could not afford to buy milk for the preparation of yogurt.
The freshly harvested wheat is cleansed of impurities, washed, and left to stand in water for at least eight hours or until the wheat berries slightly sprout. It is then boiled in a large pot on a wood fire. After cooking for 5 or 6 hours, it is dried in the sun on large white sheets. At this point it is taken to the mill and made into burghul. Water and salt are then added and it is left to ferment from 2 to 4 weeks according to the season. It then fermented for another week and finally worked by hand until a homogenous, elastic mass is obtained.
The product can have a plain taste or flavors can be added, such as thyme, cumin, nigel seeds, sesame seeds, red, green or black peppers. When the mass is still moist it is shaped into small balls. They are then stacked compactly in glass jars, local extra virgin olive oil will then be poured to cover entirely the vegan cheese for preservation and taste. Kechek el Fouqara can then be kept for a year or longer.
In this difficult situation, with producers seriously damaged by the 2006 war, the Presidium works to promote this product on local and international markets, increasing the quality of the raw materials (oil, grain) providing new equipment in order to rationalize the production and sustaining the creation of a food com- munity involving producers from different phases of the production process of Kechek el Fouqara.
Majdal Zoun, Tyre province
Presidium supported by
Tuscany Regional Authority
Mona Eldor Hassan Salman
tel. +961 3814341