A traditional Lebanese practice of using clay jars to make one of the world’s rarest and oldest cheeses is slowly disappearing, according to a report by BBC News.
Ambarees, an iconic product of the Bekaa Valley, is made of fermented raw goat milk in earthenware jars. The cheese develops into a creamy texture with an acidic flavor. Lebanese call it “Labnet el Jarra.”
According to BBC, some Baalbeck residents say it’s becoming harder to find the traditional clay pot needed for cheese production. The practice is also not being passed down to newer generations, the report adds.
How It’s Made
Making the delicacy begins with filling the clay jar with milk and covering it with a cloth. The milk is left until the water begins to separate and drain out.
Then, for several months, salt and milk are added to the recipe at least twice per week until it begins to dry. The cheese stays fresh for at least one year using this method.
Ambarees is made from raw goat milk poured at room temperature into the jar. The key to its production involves its fermentation, and the cheese reaching the perfect acidity.
The delicacy is commonly enjoyed during winter months on hot pieces of Markouk or Saj breads. Ambarees is highly dense and can be preserved for up to one year, making it ideal for winter enjoyment.
Why It’s Disappearing
According to BBC, markets in Beirut say most vendors don’t have time to make the homemade cheese anymore.
“Ambarees is one of the oldest cheeses in the world; it’s maybe 2,000 years old,” says one vendor. “People like it, but making it is quite hard and no one has time anymore.”
Some Lebanese fear the cheese could soon disappear if newer generations don’t learn the recipe and pass it on.
Families in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley — where it’s called ‘ambaress’ — and in the Shouf area — where it is called serdeleh — are hoping to keep the tradition alive.
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