In love with the Gozitan Cheeselets

February 24, 2017

Create a platter of Gozo cheeselets, fresh crusty bread and local tomatoes. Include some wine from Gozo’s estates and head to your favourite scenic spot in good company. Enjoy the authentic taste and the serenity of an unspoilt landscape. Gozo is rewarding in so many ways.

Gozo Cheeselets are widely appreciated and they are a signature of the Gozitan taste!  Here we look at some interesting facts about the authentic Gozitan Cheeselets.

 The process of making cheeselets

The production of cheeselets is a very ancient craft in Gozo. It all starts with sheep and goats’ milk and many times the experts of this cottage industry prefer the sheep’s milk because it contains more milk solids.  Milk is mixed with rennet and left to stand for some hours until the curd (baqta) has formed.  At this point, the mixture is transferred into little containers or baskets called qwieleb in Maltese.   The cheese is left to drain overnight and it is ready when the cheese has fully drained.  Nowadays, more hygienic plastic baskets are used to drain the individual cheeselets but in earlier days, these baskets were made from dried reeds (qwieleb tas-simar).

Cheeselets are available in two major forms – fresh or hardened.  The different types of cheeselets available include the following:

Fresh Cheeselets (Ġbejna Friska)

The fresh cheese is one that has just been produced and left to drain. The fresh cheeselets are very soft and wobbly and are usually sold within the first two or three days of production.  They are generally used in traditional soups like Soppa tal-Armla (The Widow’s Soup), Kusksu (Broad Bean soup) and make a tasty filling for ravioli and pies.

Fresh Gozitan Cheeselets
Fresh Gozitan Cheeselets

 Salt Cured Cheeselets (Ġbejna Maħsula, tas-Salmura)

These are cheeselets that are fresh but have been sprinkled with salt.

 Sun-dried Cheeselets (Ġbejna Moxxa)

Sun-dried cheeselets were traditionally dried in a qanniċ, a type of wooden or reed structure that could be found hanging in well-ventilated spaces on rooftops, still visible to date on the rooftops of authentic, rural dwellings. Cheeselets were placed inside and left to dry.  Today the qanniċ has been replaced by dedicated dryers. Sun-dried cheeselets are a harder type of cheeselet, that can be given specific flavours with the use of herbs and pepper.

 Peppered Cheeselets (Ġbejna tal-Bżar)

Pepper, salt and a dash of vinegar give this type of cheese its authentic taste.  Although very smelly, these hardened cheeselets preserve well for a long time. Crumbly in texture, these cheeselets are to die for with crusty Gozitan bread, galletti, and a platter of other local delicacies.

 Acquiring authentic Gozitan cheeselets

Gozitan cheeselets are available in most supermarkets and groceries scattered around the island.  They are also acquired through the specialised stores selling authentic Gozitan food, agritourism estates and naturally through the cheese makers themselves.

Picnic time: sundried and peppered cheeselets platter ...
Picnic time! Sun-dried and peppered cheeselets platter …