«Kalitsounia» – Cretan mini-pie or cheesecake

Served for both appetizer and dessert

On Crete, “kalitsounias” are baked all over the island with many types of fillings: on holidays and as everyday meal; as must they are prepared for the Easter table and Shrovetide. Kalitsounia goes well with honey and sesame seeds.

Delicious kalitsounias are produced according to traditional village recipes when combining fresh Cretan cheese varieties, such as xinomizithra (soft unformed cheese, like sour curd) or Anthotiros (soft cheese with herbal flavor and aroma, hence it means “floral cheese”: its taste is sourish, the more mature the cheese, the stronger the sourish-salty taste is felt) and fragrant mint or Cretan horta—edible greens!

In any small restaurant of Crete, in any cafe, so what’s there in a cafe—in any diner you will be surely treated to sheep feta cheese. Surprisingly, but the fact is, the cheese keeps its name for 3.5 thousand years. It is the best, so we briefly mention the technology for producing feta cheese. It was believed that this technology is known since the days of Homer. Its essence: a container with sheep milk was placed in the sun, where its contents warmed up, then the milk was fermented. When the milk was completely folded, the serum was drained, and the thick was laid out in bags and hung in reed baskets in the shade for several days. Depending on what kind of cheese they wanted to get, the duration of the last procedure was determined. After all it, the cheese was laid out in wooden barrels and poured with brine on the same whey or with olive oil. This feta was stored for a long time. But attention! The whey remaining from the production of feta was heated, fermented, and the resulting curd was collected, squeezed, salted, and placed under the load. Then they put it in wooden barrels for a couple of months, receiving a delicious and dietary cheese which today in Crete is called xinomizithra!

Cheese has been extremely important for Crete since the ancient times. Let us take the ancient polis of Kydonia that existed in the area of modern Chania. Its environs are the space of sheep flocks and shepherds, from where came the recruits of the Cretan army (and from the neighboring Aptara—the oarsmen), that is, from the representatives of the poor population: West Crete in ancient times was the poorest area of the island, and the residents paid taxes in small pieces of sheep cheese.

Cretans sometimes call the kalitsounias “icon lamps” for their form similar to lamps. However, if you wish, you can find square and triangular, crescent and rectangular ones. The shape of cheesecakes, as it is believed on the island, corresponds to the character of people living in a particular area. Thus, in the town of Sitia, kalitsounia is prepared in a square shape, which indicates the straightness of the character of the Sitians, and in Chania they don’t put sugar in them, so you can try both salted and sweet kalitsounias.

Make sure to taste them in different places of Crete!

№ 5 (48), 2020