Although its white to bluish-white hue and light, fluffy texture could be said to resemble picture-perfect clouds on your plate, what makes Kopanisti cheese so divine isn’t just its taste. As legend has it, Aristaios, the son of Apollo and the huntress Cyrene, was sent by the gods to bestow the divine art of cheese-making on the people of Greece. Some myths even suggest that Kopanisti cheese gets better and better with time. One taste of its rich, peppery taste and you just might believe it.
But just how do they produce that divine flavor? First, it is produced entirely by hand, as in “no machinery of any kind is used at any stage”- by hand. Next, the blend of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk will vary from island to island, but salt and ground pepper are added consistently before aging-curing, which lends the cheese its distinctive spiciness, as well as the boldness frequently compared to Roquefort, albeit with a sharper bite.
You may think you’ve tired the cheese already, but chances are if you didn’t eat it in Greece, it was a typical substitute made by mashing feta with various spices. Kopanisti cheese is safeguarded by the European Union courtesy of the “Protected Denomination of Origin”, which means that much as champagne is only champagne if it comes from Champagne, it can only be produced in the Cyclades. Although you will find the cheese throughout the region, Kopanisti from Mykonos is especially legendary. Be sure to watch for it in its distinctive terra cotta pots, and to pair it with ouzo — its sharpness is the perfect partner to ouzo’s sweet anise.
Ready to plot a cheese-lover’s pilgrimage? You’ll want to taste all the variations, of course — as if you needed an excuse to island hop! Make your Cycladic circuit complete at White Line Hotels Edits Themonies Luxury Suites on Folegandros, Aenaon Villas on Santorini, and Theoxenia on Mykonos.
Contributing Writer: Melissa Frost
Stomach rumbling? Check out these other regional foods from our archives!