Our island is a place full of history, tradition, folklore and natural beauty. Accordingly, it produces fine quality dairy products which are well known to locals and visitors. In this concise guide we will inform you about the most famous Cretan Dairy Products in order to enjoy and discover when on vacation.
Cretan Dairy Products: A long history.
The correlation of Crete with dairy products and cheese making, as well as the agricultural sector is very long. This is certified also from the centuries long presence of shepherds on Cretan highlands as well as valleys of Crete and the famous “Mitata”which can be found mainly on the White Mountains and on high altitudes.
These buildings were used primarily as a temporary shelter for the shepherd’s protection from harsh weather conditions but also as a peculiar cheese making factory from the herd’s milk being close to the Mitato. Those temporary shelters have been almost abandoned, but there are still some families that preserve their ancestors’ tradition mainly on high remote mountains and in the White Mountains mountain range. Below we will learn about the distinctive cretan dairy products that you must try.
Graviera is for sure one of the most well known cheeses of Crete, which you have to try during your vacation in the island. It is a hard mature yellow coloured cheese. For the production of Graviera cheese mostly sheep milk is used in a combination with goats milk. It is a high nutritional value product and can be consumed even on its own, as a side on main dishes, or as a dessert with honey.
Another fine Cretan dairy product very famous in Crete is Mizithra. In contrast with Graviera, Mizithra is a fresh product and has to be consumed fast. It is a soft white creamy cheese and has low fats, used widely on Cretan Salads, Cretan Dakos and Cretan Kalitsounia . It is also used on whichever pie we want to add cheese with low fats. For the preparation of Mizithra mostly goat’s milk is being used and is milk with low fats compared to sheep’s milk. It is eaten with pleasure any hour of the day and due to its low fats it is an ideal dairy product for everyone.
Another famous and very healthy dairy product is the so- called anthotyros. Due to its low fats and mild taste, it is also an ideal product for use on pies and salads in order to complement all other flavours on your food plate. It is produced with milk whey, a dairy byproduct in combination with fresh sheep and goat’s milk. It is slightly fattier from Mizithra cheese which also makes it more solid in comparison with Mizhthra which is the softer of all the dairy products we present to you.
You can try fresh soft Anthotiro, as well as dried granulated Anthotiro, an ideal cheese for spaghetti. Due to its low sodium percentage it also has a limited shelf life, and this is why you are certain about the freshness of this dairy product.
Last but not least, we present to you a dairy product named Staka. It is the milk’s “skin”/ top part being collected right after the milking process. This part, with careful procedure, is being heated and then gives us the famous “Stakovoutiro” or Staka Butter, which is used on many Cretan Cuisine dishes.
Common plates with staka are: Eggs with staka or staka cream spreaded in fresh grilled bread. Due to its high fat concentration it is advised not to eat it regularly, however it is a good opportunity to taste it when on vacation in some traditional tavern or restaurant, or even a Cretan home. You will remember its taste for years to come!
In the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete we are extremely proud of the products of our homeland. This is why we promote and highlight all the fresh and pure cretan dairy products. Many dishes with dairy products we already described can be also found on our traditional cretan restaurant , right after our Botanical Gardens and the vineyards of Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete.