TIRANA, January 21
Emigration is bleeding rural Albania dry. Backing to community-based economies would provide alternatives to migration for youth in remote Albania.
Albanian products is a series of articles in support of the products/services offered by those who decide to stay, return, or move to Albania. The goal is to learn and share knowledge, to help preserve a myriad of traditional goods and crafts that risk becoming extinct, and to direct product and service development towards sustainability.
These are products or services that can be traded in the local, domestic, and international markets.
Category – gastronomy
Small scale mountain production
Motto: A legacy to protect
The Mishavine cheese, widely unknown among Albanians, is a typical product of one the remotest areas in the country. Produced by the communities living in Kelmendi Alps, the Mishavine cheese is a culinary treasure. The cheese has obtained a Geographical Indication (GI) sign. However, the continuity of this authentic gastronomic tradition depends on the communities that produce it. The Mishavine is not only about the final product. It includes the pasture lands on the slopes on the Trojan mountain where livestock graze, the transhumance tradition, the climate, the craftsmanship of the producers, the cheese-making process, and finally the remote mountain dining experience.
The cheese is made only during the summer months with a mixture of sheep, goat, and cow milk at about 1,200 meters over sea level.
According to the slow-food foundation, there are 17 families in Lepusha, Vermoshi, and Budac that continue the Mishavine cheese-making tradition, among many other products.
The Mishavine differently from other types of cheese made in Albania is a spread cheese. It belongs to the ‘cheese in a sack’ family, a cheese-making technique that spread through the ancient Silk Road. However, the Mishavine uses a cheese-cloth and a wooden vessel instead of the sack made of sheep, goat, or cow skin/stomach.
Farmers or producers mix specific percentages of sheep, cow, and goat milk to make cheese curds. Afterward, they put the curds in a cheesecloth and strain it to drain excess moisture. A rock can be placed over to help in the process. Then the producer leaves it to dry outside out of the sun for about ten or more days. When the producer thinks it’s time, he/she crumbles the cheese by hand and salts it. The cheese is left to age in a wooden barrel, with a strainer at the bottom, to allow excess whey to escape. The pot is sealed with a thick layer of clarified butter. The cheese is ready for consumption in a minimum of two months. It is accompanied by pickles, cured meat, plum grappa, and other products that warm the body and the spirit during harsh winters.
When the cheese is ready, an urban class is needed to appreciate the product and to keep the production circle running. They can do it either by visiting the area during winter or by raising demand for the product in city shops dedicated to local farming.
If you like to support the Mishavine farmers, you can either travel to Kelmend or reach out to the organization that helps the local community of farmers, Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo (VIS Albania). Contact: [email protected]
Source/Photo Credit: VISnordAlb