The “Golden Sheep” West Bank Cheese Incident

golden sheepThe Golden Sheep makes Palestinians proud with gourmet Italian cheese.

The Arab Geographer al-Muqaddasi wrote between the 9th and 11th centuries that while Palestine has olives, dried figs, raisins and the Carob fruit, Jerusalem has cheeses, Aninuni and Duri raisins, apples, and pine nuts.

More recently, an influx of foreigners – including Italians – broadened Palestine’s menu, bringing olive oil, oregano, and baked bread.

Today a whole new flavor has emerged, reports Christian Monitor correspondent and former Green Prophet contributor Daniella Cheslow, except this time a Palestinian master cheesemaker flew to Italy to study their craft and brought it back home.     The Golden Sheep dairy produces a dazzling array of gourmet Italian cheeses from Tubas in the West Bank, including pecorino, scamorza, and ricotta. On the day that Daniella visited, Mr. Kemal Daher and Abu Sultan Zakzuk were “churning” out blobs of mozzarella cheese.

making-cheese-palestineTheir yellow cheese is infused with red pepper, saffron, and zaatar, and all are aged in an air-conditioned room “with a wet blanket.” It’s not certain what the wet blanket does, but it must do something good because the cheese fetches up to $25 per roughly two pounds. That may be too much for Mr. Daher, and Abu Zakzuk’s children don’t like it, but there are plenty of buyers.

Though it received funding from the European Commission, a Swiss foundation, and an Italian town called Boltsano, the $1.7 million agriculture station with its 80 sheep and goats, fodder store, and veterinary clinic generates a decent sum.

“Italian agronomist Stefano Baldini, who helped launch the program, says that this year Golden Sheep earned about $36,000 in sales, enough to make it financially independent,” wrote Ms. Cheslow.

“Lots of [Palestinians have] traveled abroad,” Mr. Baldini told her. “They know what cheese is available in France and Italy, and they are proud to buy Palestinian.”

:: Bottom image and story via Daniella Cheslow, Christian Science Monitor

More food news from the West Bank:

EcoBaladi Sprouts Organic Vegetables From the West Bank

Palestinian Farmers Look to Export Fair Trade Grapes

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