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Tulum Cheese from Turkey


Tulum Cheese in Goatskin / Bob Galivan

Istanbul, Turkey. May 8th, 2010

Outside the Spice Bazaar near the Galeta Bridge, we found a Turkish cheese shop open and ready for business. There was quite a large display of Turkish cheeses, along with other local and regional items such as olives, cured meats, and more. We selected several traditional cheeses from the shelves: Tulum, Kasar, and Cecil Peynir.

Tulum cheese is traditionally made from sheep’s milk and ripened in a goat skin bag (tulum in Turkish). It is produced in most of the regions of the country, but the primary types of Tulum are Izmir Tulum, produced in the Western region of Turkey, and Erzincan Savak Tulum, produced in the Eastern region of Turkey. The Izmir cheese is harder and saltier than the Erzincan cheese. We purchased some Erzincan, displayed still stored in its goatskin.

The cheese is made in the standard way, using raw milk and coagulated using calves rennet. After draining, the curd is broken up into small pieces, salted, then placed in the skins to cure. Tulum is aged for at least three months. Some facilities are using plastic bags to age the cheese instead of the traditional skins. Studies are mixed as to the effect the plastic has on the characteristics of the cheese.

Tulum cheese / Bob Galivan

The tulum cheese we purchased had no rind. The surface was smooth and wrinkly from the skin it was stored in. The paste was off-white, almost ivory in color, with a crumbly, cake-y appearance. It looked like you could flake it with a fork; it broke apart very easily.

The aroma was straw, slightly soured milk, with vegetal and herbal notes. The taste was salty, herbal, spicy, with some peppery notes. It was slightly sour with some nutty flavors. The texture in the mouth was grainy; the cheese dissolved into a pleasant creamy paste with a cornmeal texture. The salty flavor lingered, with some sweetness as it finished.

This was a tasty cheese, and would be great in salads – I suspect as a substitute for feta cheese it would be fantastic. We saw a watermelon salad with what I am pretty sure was Tulum on display in a restaurant. Tulum is available on-line; search Turkish Grocers USA for locations.We tried it with a Spanish white table wine, and Champagne - it went well. It was a little salty for red wine, but it was not a bad match with a Vacluse or a Chianti.

Cheese Shop in Istanbul / Bob Galivan


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