8 Unique Georgian Cheeses You Need to Try
Located between the Black Sea and the Greater Caucasus mountain range, Georgia is a land of great diversity. The culture of Georgia is a unique blend of Eastern and Western traditions that is reflected in the country’s food culture.
Speaking of Georgian cuisine, khachapuri is the first thing that comes to mind. What makes Georgian khachapuri so special? Well, traditional Georgian cheese.
Over the centuries, each region of Georgia has developed unique cheese-making techniques, such as fermenting the cheese in wine or burying it in the ground, gradually forming into delicious and beautiful cheeses.
If you’re a cheese fan, you’ll be in heaven when traveling around Georgia. This country has a cheese for every taste, from the mild and sweet to the sharp and pungent. Here are the 8 most unique and traditional cheeses in Georgia.
1. Sulguni Cheese
Sulguni is a stretched curd made from whole or buffalo milk or a mixture of the two, sometimes with added goat’s milk, traditionally in the shape of a flat disc.
The cheese has a mildly salty taste and a slightly rubbery texture. It is often used in dishes such as khachapuri, a traditional Georgian dish consisting of cheese-filled bread. If you wish to cook khachapuri yourself and need a European cheese replacement, a mix of mozzarella and feta works well.
Another popular version of sulguni is the smoked vesion, which has a rustic flavor and a pleasant aftertaste and goes well with beer.
2. Guda Cheese
Guda is another traditional Georgian delicious cheese that goes through several stages of maturation, but the results are worth the effort and patience.
To make Guda cheese, place fresh goat’s milk in a folded bag and salt the outside. It is later covered with trimmed sheepskin and mountain grass.
Shepherds keep guda bags hanging all spring when the sun heats the cheese from above and the earth cools it from below. These conditions allow the cheese to age naturally. Guda goes well with the Georgian amber wine Mtsvane.
3. Imeretian Cheese (Chkinti Cheese)
Imeretian cheese from the Imereti region of Georgia is a popular curd made from cow’s milk. It has a soft and elastic texture with a slightly sour and salty taste. It’s a “quick cheese” that matures in just a day or two.
Imereti cheese is a popular ingredient in Georgian cuisine, most often found in the famous Georgian cheese bread called khachapuri and salads. Imeretian cheese can also be used as a topping to just about any dish that calls for a mild melted cheese flavor.
4. Dambal-Khacho Cheese
Dambal-Khacho is a cheese produced in the mountains of Georgia, Pshavi. The buttermilk cheese left over after churning the milk butter is the secret to this delicious treat.
The cheese is cured and dried over medium heat. It then matures in clay pots for about three months, when a characteristic mold forms. Due to its long shelf life and nutritional value, Pshavi soldiers often packed Dambal-Khacho when going to war.
5. Chechili Cheese
Chechili, another popular Georgian cheese, is similar in consistency to mozzarella and sulguni and is made in dense strings wrapped in a figure of eight, like a thickly woven rope.
Chechili is a smoky, braided, savory beer snack with spreadable cheese, beloved of beer drinkers. Chechili is made from pasteurized milk and is low in fat. It tastes salty and smoky and is very chewy. Its consistency is firm and smooth and a perfect quick snack for any occasion.
6. Tenili Cheese
Tenili cheese is one of the oldest cheeses, with a complex production technique. The recipe has been passed down by word of mouth and is kept only in remote villages in Georgia. Its base is chechili cheese.
Traditionally, tenili is prepared for winter. Tenili is made from cow’s or goat’s milk and is only served on special occasions such as weddings, engagement parties, Christmas, New Year, birthdays, and the arrival of VIPs.
The main principle of Tenili cheese is to stretch the heated cheese until it turns into long, thin strands. The cheese threads are then stored in jars in the basement, ready to serve after a year.
7. Rotten Cheese
Rotten cheese was originally made in the Adjara region of Georgia. This cheese is only made at home and is not available in Georgian markets. It tastes similar to the French “Camembert de Normandie”.
While it is not that popular across the rest of the country, rotten cheese proudly sits among the top 8 unique Georgian cheese types due to its special texture and appearance.
8. Svanetian Narchvi Cheese
The last on our list is Svanuri Narchvi, the most unique Georgian cheese from the mountainous Svaneti region. Its production begins in summer and continues until fresh grass is in the meadows. After preparing 10-15 kilograms of cow’s cheese, the cheesemaker begins to take it apart by hand and knead it like dough on a special wooden board.
The cheese blocks are then tightly packed in a wooden box. After each layer, cheesemakers lightly salt it to drain more liquid. Once the cheese block is fully compacted, it is covered with canvas. The box is closed with a wooden lid, and a heavy stone is placed on top to drain the remaining liquid over time. Cheesemakers inspect the crates from time to time and then put on small lids after up to 7 days.
The salt concentration in Svanuri Narchvi is well balanced so that it can be served as an appetizer or added to baked goods or khachapuri bread. However, it’s quite challenging to find Narchvi cheese in average markets in Georgia, due to its unique and time-consuming technique.
Cheese plays a huge part in Georgian cuisine. It is the main ingredient of khachapuri and the main appetizer with Georgian wine. Sadly, old and traditional cheese-making techniques in Georgia are fading year by year, but the country retains its position as one of the richest and most diverse regions in terms of cheese culture.