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What Is Domiati?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Directly across the Mediterranean Sea from the birthplace of feta cheese, Greece, is the historic Egyptian coastal city of Damietta. Centuries ago, another salty white cheese was born here, known by another spelling of its native city's name, Domiati. Using milk primarily from cows or buffaloes, this popular Egyptian cheese is made salty and slightly pickled with the addition of salt even before cheese-making cultures are added.

The city of Domiati holds the primary naming rights to the country's prized white cheese, but other names are commonly used as well. Some call it gebnah baida, or "white cheese." Gebnah tariyah is another popular name, meaning "soft cheese." Its use is widespread, not just throughout Egypt but all through the Arabic nations of the Middle East.

The process of making Domiati cheese is at least 2,300 years old. Salt is added to pasteurized cow or buffalo milk at precise measurements depending on the sharpness desired — between five percent and 14 percent by volume. After saturated with salt at about 175°F (about 80°C), this heated and salted milk batch is mixed into two parts unsalted milk. Only then does the cook add the bacterial starter, which is a diverse combination of bacterial agents that act in warm temperatures to form the final cheese product.

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The coagulated Domiati cheese that starts to form at the top of the salted milk is then scooped into molds lined with cheese cloth. Once a mold is filled, the cloth is fully wrapped around the cheese, which is placed into a vise-like press for a long period of drainage and drying at an elevated room temperature of about 100°F (about 38°C). Sometimes, the molds will be square or rectangular; other times, they will be in a circle or oval shape.

Various types of Domiati cheese is made by either altering the type of milk or the amount of salt. Full-, half- and quarter-cream cheese is had by using eight percent, four percent or two percent milk, respectively. The amount of salt that is added might even vary by the season in which it is added. In summer, as much as 14 percent salt to milk could be added by volume. In winter, as little as five percent salt might be adequate. In the fall and spring, a middle ground around seven percent salt is the norm. Another non-refrigerated Egyptian white cheese adds even less salt and has longer drying times.

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JaneAir
Post 4

@feruze - I've never tried domiati cheese before (after reading this article I think I definitely will though) but I am a big fan of feta cheese. I bet you could use domiati for pretty much the same thing feta is used for.

Domiati would probably be delicious crumbled over a salad. I would probably make it similar to a Greek salad with onions and tomatoes. I'm not a big fan of olives, so I usually leave those out, but if you like olives I would add them. I would then top it with a vinaigrette.

bear78
Post 3

I love shopping at Middle Eastern groceries for cheese and olives because there seem to be so much variety. I picked up some domiati cheese last time because I've never tried it before and it looked really good.

I brought it home and now I'm not too sure what to do with it. I considered having it with some toast or maybe as a topping for pizza but it is a bit too salty for either.

Does anyone have a recipe that calls for domiati? What would you suggest I make with this?

Would it be good with some veggies, maybe a zucchini and tomato dish?

candyquilt
Post 2

@fify-- That's true, but there is still an important difference between domiati and those cheeses because of the way salt is added and the article has already described it.

As far as I know, all of the cheeses you mentioned are technically in the same category because they are all brined. Brining is when the cheese is placed in salty water after it is made to age and mature without the growth of bacteria. Domiati doesn't need brining though because it is already salted when it gets to that stage.

Salt is added to feta after the cheese is made and molded, whereas salt is added to domiati before it becomes cheese. Instead of being brined, domiati is dried to mature because the salt in it is enough to protect from extra bacteria formation. This also makes the life of the cheese longer.

fify
Post 1

Until now, I thought that feta and domiati were different names for the same cheese. They look really similar to me, so do some other cheeses in that region, like Bulgarian cheese and Turkish white cheese.

I guess they are similar in appearance but domiati's production process is a little different. I don't consider the salt as a difference because I have tasted many Greek feta and Bulgarian cheeses that have varying amount of salt in it. So I think that salt is a common feature of all these cheeses from this region.

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