One morning Jaro and I went walking to Stara Pazova and wandered into this simple little Serbian cheese shop on the corner. They sell only dairy products, and about 8 to 10 different types of Serbian cheeses that are all freshly made in the villages in Vojvodina. The shop had only been open a week; for 40 years before that, the place had been a butcher shop. You could still see the meat hooks, now empty, on the white tile walls behind the counter.
I was in love with the simple, silky, creamy cheeses Daniela and Jaro served me. I had never tasted anything like them before, and never did find anything quite like them later in Austria or Slovakia. Kajmak was my favorite – cheese made from the cream that forms on the top of cooked milk. It’s very similar to English clotted cream, and it is great served with Cevapi, as our former Croatian exchange student, Larisa, recently reminded me. Kajmak is popular in the Balkan countries as well as in India, Eastern Asia, the Middle East, Turkey, Iran and Afganistan.
In the East, kajmak is made from the milk of water buffalo, and in the West, from cow’s milk. The best kajmak is apparently made from the milk of mountain cattle. I suspect it is made from unpasteurized milk in Vojvodina, which adds to the taste. Kajmak is usually made at home, or purchased fresh at a farmer’s market; commercial products are simply inferior. The only legal way I have heard that you can get unpasteurized milk in North America (well, at least in Ontario) is if you get it from a cow on your own farm and consume it yourself. Nick, I need a cow as well as chickens on my future farm.
Kajmak is thick and creamy, similar in taste and consistency to sour cream, and is a bit thicker. It is excellent served spread on bread alone, or with jam. It’s great served in a dollop alongside a piece of cake, or with cevapi.
- Milk – 1 quart of whole milk (you can try it with cream too, or a mixture of milk and cream)
- Bring the milk to a boil slowly
- Simmer gently for 2 hours on very low heat
- Skim the creamy mixture that has formed on top into a bowl
- Chill the skimmed cream in the refrigerator from 3 hours to 3 days, allowing it to ferment and sour ( the longer, the tastier)