Discovering Safed Cheese cheese from Israel

Unraveling the Prize of the Middle Eastern Palate: The Charm of Safed Cheese

Among the wealth of traditional cheese varieties present in the Middle Eastern culinary palette, the Safed Cheese unquestionably holds a distinctive place. Produced since centuries, this cheese was originally limited to households in the Middle East. Today, it is savored by connoisseurs globally for its delicate flavor, unique texture, and wholesome nutritive profile.

Safed Cheese, as the name suggests, originated in Safed, a city of mysticism and spirituality located in the Northern District of Israel. Locally, it’s called “gvina levana” which translates to white cheese, due to its bright white appearance. It’s primarily composed of goat or sheep milk, its character distinguished by the use of unpasteurized milk, lending it an authentic and rich tang. Some commercial versions may incorporate cow’s milk for a balanced, milder flavor profile suitable for broader palates.

This cheese has a semi-hard texture, similar to feta but less crumbly, and a smooth yet firm consistency that can be sliced, diced, or grated with ease. It is typically brined in a saltwater solution to boost preservation and intensify its flavor. The taste can be best described as mild yet subtly sharp, punctuated by the slight tang of goat milk. Some variations feature herbs or spices to further augment its gastronomic appeal.

  • Nutritional Profile: Safed Cheese is rich in protein, calcium, and essential vitamins like A, D and B12. Additionally, it tends to be lower in fat content compared to many other cheese types, making it a healthy pick for cheese aficionados.
  • Culinary Uses: Being versatile, Safed Cheese can be employed in a variety of culinary dishes. It is often served as a standalone delicacy in breakfasts, diced in salads, blended in sauces, or melted on breads and pizzas. The cheese also pairs well with fruits like figs and grapes due to the harmonious interplay of its inherent saltiness with the fruits’ sweetness.
  • Pairings: In terms of wine pairings, light-bodied wines like Sauvignon Blanc or a bubbly Prosecco compliment the cheese’s subtle flavors effectively.

By truly understanding Safed Cheese in its entirety – its provenance, characteristics, nutritional benefits, and uses – one gains a higher appreciation for why it’s revered amongst the bevy of world cheeses.

Safed Cheese from Israel: Test your cheese knowledge!

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Exploring the Intricacies and Varieties of Safed Cheese

Safed cheese is one of the many gems in the world of dairy, and its rich flavor profile and fascinating properties have enamored cheese connoisseurs across the globe. Originating from lush regions of India, Safed cheese, also known as Paneer, is a delectably soft, mild, and low-fat cheese, often being a reliable cornerstone in many nourishing and flavorful dishes of the Indian cuisine.

Like many other cheese varieties, the process of producing Safed cheese involves curdling milk and then draining the whey. The curdling process is typically facilitated using lemon juice, vinegar, or other acidic agents, and in some regions, yogurt is used, bestowing a unique tangy flavor. Unlike its western counterparts like Cheddar and Camembert, there is no aging or fermentation involved in Safed cheese production, thus creating a refreshingly simple and straightforward cheese with an impressive versatility.

Notable varieties of Safed cheese exist across regions, reflecting the unique culinary tendencies and preferences of the local communities. While the traditional Indian Paneer remains the most ubiquitous version, there are a number of intriguing variations featuring distinct flavor enhancements and textures:

  • Shahi Paneer: This delectable variant of Paneer is lavishly seasoned with a selection of rich Indian spices and creams, rendering it as a prime ingredient for savory Indian dishes.
  • Matar Paneer: With the addition of peas (matar), this variant introduces a slightly sweet and nutty undertone to the palette, creating a remarkable fusion of taste and texture.
  • Panneer Tikka: This is a marinated, barbecue-grilled variety of Safed cheese, a charred delight imbued with the smoky aroma of the grill and a selection of fragrant Indian spices.

With their unique flavors, textures, and culinary applications, these varieties of Safed cheese not only highlight the diversity within the cheese world but also echo the vibrant culinary narrative of India.

The Unique Safed Cheese: A Culinary Delight from the Holy City of Safed

Safed cheese, also known as Safed Tal cheese, is a rare and distinctive cheese that originates from the enchanting city of Safed in northern Israel. Safed, often referred to as the “City of Mystics,” is situated in the picturesque mountainous region of Galilee, which contributes to the cheese’s exceptional taste and texture.

With a history dating back centuries, Safed cheese holds a special place in Israeli culinary tradition. Produced by skilled artisans, this handcrafted cheese offers a memorable experience for cheese enthusiasts seeking something truly exceptional.

Safed cheese is a white, crumbly cheese known for its delicate flavor and creamy texture. The cheese is made from high-quality goat’s milk, which is sourced from the local region surrounding Safed. The combination of the region’s unique climate, pasture, and traditional cheese-making techniques results in a cheese that is distinct in taste and aroma.

Pairing beautifully with fresh bread, crackers, or fruit, Safed cheese brings a touch of elegance to any cheese board or appetizer platter. Its versatility makes it suitable for both savory and sweet pairings, making it a go-to cheese choice for food lovers and cheese connoisseurs alike.

Characteristics of Safed Cheese:

  • Handcrafted cheese made with high-quality goat’s milk
  • White, crumbly texture
  • Delicate flavor with a creamy undertone
  • Distinctive aroma
  • Pairs well with bread, crackers, and fruit

Facts and figures

  • Interesting Fact: Despite being a traditional product, Safed cheese hasn't achieved the same worldwide fame as other cheese varieties.
  • Did you know? Safed cheese is one of the main constituents of the famous Israeli dish known as “Borekitas”.
  • Cheese Trivia: Safed was one of the first cheeses produced in Israel, with production dating back to the 19th century.
  • Production Fact: Making Safed cheese includes a step of pressing to expel extra whey, helping to achieve its distinctive texture.
  • Cool Stat: Despite its regional origin, Safed cheese has become a vital part of the culinary landscape across the country.
  • Culinary Tip: Safed cheese's mild flavor pairs well with fruity white wines.
  • Fun Detail: Safed cheese's name comes from the city of its origin, Safed, located in the mountains of the Upper Galilee.

Mastering the Art of Arrangements Featuring Safed Cheese

Renowned for its rich texture and slightly tangy flavor, Safed cheese holds a coveted position on the grazing boards of cheese aficionados globally. This semi-hard cheese hailing from Israel presents an excellent texture contrast to softer cheeses typically found on platters and possesses a versatility that lends itself pleasantly to various gourmet recipes. Here, we present mouthwatering arrangements and dishes that prominently feature the sensational Safed cheese.

One classic arrangement that does justice to Safed cheese’s unique qualities involves pairing it with fresh fruits and artisanal crackers. Match the creamy and slightly salty cheese with succulent grapes, juicy pears or apple slices to strike a delightful balance. Additionally, featuring it alongside an assortment of carefully selected gourmet crackers provides an idyllic base for the cheese, allowing its distinct flavour to shine. To make the experience even more memorable, consider accompanying the cheese with wines such as a crisp, light-bodied Chardonnay or a fruity Beaujolais. This pairing creates an sublime flavor combination, accentuating the gourmet essence of your cheese board, as each element complements the other perfectly.

Our gourmet recipe showcasing Safed cheese is a simple yet elegant Olive and Safed Cheese Bread. This masterful blend of Mediterranean flavors incorporates pitted Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and fresh rosemary into a rustic bread dough, and the Safed cheese gets folded in, providing bursts of creamy, tangy goodness in every bite. Below, we outline the steps to recreate this gastronomic delight:

  • Begin by combining warm water, bread flour, and yeast in a large bowl, mixing until you achieve a sticky dough. Let it rise for an hour.
  • While your dough is rising, roughly chop your Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, and rosemary. Crumble your Safed cheese into generously sized pieces.
  • Fold the olive, sundried tomatoes, rosemary, and Safed cheese into the dough, ensuring they’re evenly distributed.
  • Shape the dough into a loaf and allow it to proof for another 30 minutes.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 30-40 minutes until golden and crusty.

Packaged full of flavor, these arrangements and meals magnify the intricate richness of Safed Cheese, transforming ordinary meals into culinary masterpieces.

Perfectly Paired Wines and Dishes That Complement Safed Cheese

Safed Cheese, an exquisite product of Indian dairy craftsmanship, is famed for its exceptional creaminess and slight tang that sets it apart from the norm. As a high-quality cheese, Safed Cheese deserves nothing less than to be relished at the epicentre of a well-thought dining experience, accompanied by wines and dishes that elevate its distinctive essence. Pairing this Indian gem with the right wines or food can make all the difference, turning an ordinary meal into an extraordinary gourmet experience.

When it comes to wine, Safed cheese pairs well with both reds and whites, depending on your preference. For white wine enthusiasts, a glass of Chenin Blanc or Riesling’s bright, fruity notes is an terrific match to the milky smoothness of Safed cheese. These wines are characterised by their high acidity and medium body, allowing them to cut through the cheese’s rich creaminess and cleanse the palate. Alternatively, a light-bodied red like Pinot Noir, with its cherry-like undertones and mild tannins, can brilliantly highlight the cheese’s clean, lactic flavours without overpowering them. Another fitting choice is a bubbly Prosecco which, with its effervescence and appealing sweetness, can add a touch of celebratory indulgence to your cheese tasting.

The beauty of Safed cheese lies in its versatility, making it suitable for a myriad of dishes. Here are some suggestions to enjoy this cheese to the fullest:

  • Safed Cheese and spinach stuffed bread rolls – The mild flavour of the cheese beautifully complements the earthiness of spinach, and the crisp, golden bread provides a textural contrast.
  • Saffron-infused Basmati rice with Safed cheese and cashew nuts – This dish lets the soft, delicate morsels of cheese melt into the fragrant rice, creating an irresistibly creamy texture along with the crunchy cashews.
  • Simple Safed Cheese and tomato salad – This is a refreshing, light dish where the tanginess of the tomatoes contrasts with the creaminess of the cheese, resulting in a well-balanced taste experience.

Above all remember, the best pairings are those that delight your palate, so feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.

Similar Cheeses to Safed Cheese

Safed Cheese is a delightful and unique cheese originating from the city of Safed in northern Israel. It is a white, semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk, with a crumbly texture and a mild, slightly tangy flavor. Safed Cheese is often enjoyed on its own, but it also pairs wonderfully with a variety of accompaniments such as fresh fruits, honey, or bread.

While Safed Cheese is quite unique, there are a few other cheeses that share some similarities in terms of taste and texture. Here are a few options that cheese enthusiasts might enjoy:

  1. Feta: Feta is a well-known cheese originating from Greece. Like Safed Cheese, it is made from cow’s milk and has a crumbly texture. Feta also has a tangy flavor, although it is typically saltier than Safed Cheese. It is commonly used in salads, pastries, and various Mediterranean dishes.
  2. Paneer: Paneer is a fresh cheese originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is made by curdling milk with lemon juice or vinegar, resulting in a cheese with a similar crumbly texture to Safed Cheese. Paneer has a mild and slightly acidic taste, making it a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine, especially in dishes like paneer tikka or palak paneer.
  3. Halloumi: Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean region. It is typically made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk. Halloumi has a unique characteristic of being grillable, as it maintains its shape and does not melt easily. It has a slightly salty and tangy flavor, and its firm texture makes it a great addition to salads or enjoyed grilled or fried.
  4. Queso Blanco: Queso Blanco, meaning “white cheese” in Spanish, is a fresh cheese commonly found in Latin American cuisine. It is made by coagulating milk with an acid, resulting in a crumbly texture similar to Safed Cheese. Queso Blanco has a mild and slightly tangy flavor, making it versatile for use in various dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, or salads.

While Safed Cheese has its own unique appeal, exploring these similar cheeses can provide a delightful culinary experience for cheese lovers.

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About the author: Dr. Wolfgang Sender writes on international careers. He is founder of and

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