The Cheeses, the herbs, the grapes…

Lets start, not with olive oil – about which we’ve already written a blog (that would be part I!), but with milk.  Sheep and Goats milk.  It’s the basis of the wonderful yoghurt and Graviera, the king of Cretan cheeses.

Cretan Cheeses

Outside of Greece you’ll find “Greek yoghurt” – this is normally the strained cows milk yoghurt.  Its beautifully smooth and creamy, at Panokosmos we use it to top waffles, as the creamy layers in Yasmin’s fruit trifle. 

Yasmin’s Trifle: layers of home made granola, fresh fruit and creamy Greek yoghurt

Its normally 10% fat, but we find the 2% is still just beautiful and cuts down on the calories!

Creamy strained Greek yoghurt on waffles, with fresh fruit and Creme de Mure berry sauce

But the real Cretan yoghurt is that made in the mountains.  Its got a much more tangy nature, is thicker and full of goodness!   You can sometimes get it in terracotta pots, with a top sheet held on with an elastic band, but its also increasingly now sold in plastic pots.  It is 8% fat, but this is more easily digested, is not as high in saturated fats, and is higher in vitamins and minerals than other yoghurts.

Cretan mountain yoghurt in the original terracotta pots

Around us are several villages with local dairies which make yoghurt from sheep’s milk. 

Milking the sheep is a laborious, back breaking job, which needs to be done every day
What counts as crowds in the villages of the Apokoronas!

The closest to Panokosmos, in the next village Ramni, is Matsomakis.  His yoghurt is mild, creamy and stays firm even after you’ve started using it and the skin is cut.  Its not widely available but you can buy it in the local Kalyves shops, and a few outlets in Chania. 

Matosmakis yoghurt on muesli

Mastorakis is more widely available, and is made in Fres, another village in the foothills of the White Mountains.  This has a very firm texture and a sharper, more acidic taste.  We like Kostakis yoghurt, which also comes from Fres, and which you can buy in one of their two stalls in the Agora – the covered market in the centre of Chania.

The Agora – covered market – in the centre of Chania
Inside the Agora

They all make Graviera too, often with a blend of sheep and goats milk.  The locals prize Gravieras which have been matured for 6-12 months, tho we find them rather too dry and crumbly.  Our pick is the young “freska” cheese which has beautiful soft pliant texture and a wonderful sharp and moreish taste.  Kostakis make a thyme graviera and Mastorakis a low fat goats milk cheese too.

Cheese stall in the Chania street market

Apart from the dairies, you can also buy a great yoghurt from the butcher in Armenoi, in the centre of the village by the plain tree and opposite the truly authentic kafenion, but he wont tell us which dairy supplies him!

The “White Boots” butcher of Armenoi!

Also from sheeps milk comes Myzithra, a soft cheese with flavours varying from creamy mild to sharply tangy, and textures from crumbly to creamy smooth.  Then there is Anthotiro, a soft runny cheese, which is dried with salt to make a solid white cheese which process brings out a  lovely herby flavour.  Not to forget feta, of course!

Greek salad with feta – a staple at any Greek dinner

Cretan Impressions is the breakfast we serve at Panokosmos, which showcases all these, together with a variety of rusks, of olives and of honey – about which more in another post!  And of course, no Cretan meal would be complete without a little raki, served at -20 deg both to cleanse the palate, and to prove that its 40% and hasn’t been diluted!

Cretan Impressions at Panokosmos

And if you want to sample Cretan Impressions and experience all these good things, think about coming to stay at Panokosmos

Can’t you imagine yourself here, relaxing after a Cretan breakfast!