Learn all about mizithra (myzithra) and how to make the soft version of this Greek cheese
Ready to learn all there is to learn about mizithra (or myzithra)? Well, we’re excited to help with that – perhaps not sharing ALL that there is to know, but certainly all that WE know, and we know quite a bit. We’ve been holding onto this post until we were confident that we could do it justice. Not because the recipe is complicated (it’s not), but because mizithra (myzithra) is such an important ingredient in Greek cooking, and we want to present it as well, and as thoroughly, as possible.
Let’s start with some basics:
What is mizithra (myzithra)?
Mizithra (pronounced mee-ZEETH-rah) is a cheese which originated in Greece and has been called “the most sensuous cheese of the world” by author Sabine Ivanovas in her book “Where Zeus Became a Man”. It is traditionally produced using the whey which is leftover from the production of other cheeses, in combination with either sheep or goat milk.
That’s great….but what is whey?
Whey is the liquid which is left behind after milk has been curdled or coagulated and strained. It is the byproduct of making cheese. It is a 5% solution of lactose in water with some minerals and lactalbumin, also known as “whey protein”.
Is there only one type of mizithra (myzithra)?
That would be too easy! In fact, there are three types of mizithra (myzithra). They are:
- Fresh mizithra (fresh myzithra) – this is what we are making with this recipe
- Xinomizithra (xinomyzithra) or Sour mizithra
- Dried mizithra (dried myzithra)
Here is a little more about each of the different types of mizithra:
This is an unsalted cheese which does not have a long shelf (fridge) life, and it is what we are making in this recipe. It is a soft, sweet, creamy and unsalted cheese that we use in our tyropitakia (when we don’t have fresh mizithra available we use ricotta). Fresh mizithra is also great spread on bread or served with a healthy dose of honey as a dessert or sweet breakfast. The flavor is mild but it does have a somewhat pungent odor.
Xinomizithra or Sour mizithra
Particularly popular in Crete, xinomizithra is what you get when fresh mizithra is allowed to ferment slightly until it develops a sour taste (xino in Greek means sour). It has a flavor similar to the popular Ricotta Salata. Xinomizithra is the most popular cheese eaten in Crete and is often used to top dakos.
Xynomyzithra Kritis (xynomizithra of Crete) is a European protected designation of origin cheese. This is an identification form used by the European Union and the United Kingdom whose goal is to preserve the designations of origin of food-related products. Its main purpose is to designate products that have been produced, processed and developed in a specific geographical area, using the recognized knowledge and skills of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.
When mizithra is aged it becomes dry, with a hard crumbly texture and a salty taste. Typically the cheese is salted and then compressed into a ball for aging. This savory cheese, with a fine floral scent and sharp flavor is delicious grated and sprinkled (poured) over pasta or rice. It is truly amazing, and one of the reasons our recipe for spaghetti with olive oil and mizithra is so popular (you should definitely check it out!). Dried mizithra is equally delicious in salads, casseroles, and eaten by the spoonful (hey….this is a judge-free zone).
Can you make fresh mizithra even if you aren’t making other cheeses?
You bet, and that’s what we do here. This is a “cheater’s” way of making fresh mizithra and although it veers away from tradition, it doesn’t matter too much. The end result is equally fantastic. And, it is SO easy!
What can be done with leftover whey?
You can actually save it and use it to make your next batch of mizithra; the whey is what you would use to sour your milk. Or, you can use the whey as a brine for your feta. Note that because there is little to no salt in your whey, storing your feta in it will draw some of the saltiness out of your feta.
What kind of milk should be used to make mizithra (myzithra)?
As mentioned earlier, typically mizithra is made using goat or sheep milk, or a combination of the two. Goat milk is relatively easy to find in most large grocery or health food stores these days (sheep’s milk, less so). So, you can certainly use goat milk. You can however also use the much more available cow’s milk, and that is what we use here. For best results, use full fat milk.
Note that lactose-free milk will not work. We are not sure of the science behind that – but our parents have tried it…and it failed. Save your lactose-free milk and dunk koulourakia with orange into it.
How long should the fresh mizithra be drained?
There is a lot of liquid which will remain in your curdled milk (mizithra). How long you drain it will impact the end texture of your cheese and is really a matter of preference. When our parents use mizithra to make tyropites, they like to leave it quite loose and therefore drain it for only 10 minutes or so. Allowed to drain longer, the mizithra will have a firmer texture – this can be great when serving mizithra on bread or drizzled with honey.
Looking for recipes that include mizithra? We’ve got lots, including these three:
We love hearing from you! If you have made our recipes, or if you have a question or comment, or simply want to say Hi!, please leave a comment and star rating below! Also be sure to follow along with us, on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. We have lots of fun over there.
- 4 liters whole milk 3.25% milk fat *
- 110 mL white vinegar
- 1 tsp water
- Pour all of the milk into a large pot and heat over medium heat until the milk starts to boil. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from burning.4 liters whole milk
- Once you reach the boiling point, sprinkle in the white vinegar a little bit at time. Stir.110 mL white vinegar
- Sprinkle the water over the top. Stir and bring back to a boil. Watch video here.1 tsp water
- With a slotted ladle or large spoon, start removing the milk which has curdled and place it into a bowl that you have lined with cheesecloth (alternatively you can use a clean kitchen towel). Watch video here. The water left behind is they whey.
- Let the cheese drain for 10 minutes if you will be using it to make tyropites. Drain it longer if you prefer a thicker mizithra (for spreading on bread for example), and then place into a bowl, and refrigerate.
- Store your fresh mizithra in the refrigerator for several days or freeze for up to 1 month.
- Do not use lactose-free milk in this recipe.