Lemnos is among the few islands of the Aegean whose inhabitants are occupied more with livestock farming and agricultural cultivation than with the sea. To be sure, its plains and low hillsides provide the perfect conditions for this. The island’s livestock farmers maintain a rich tradition in making dairy products, among which kalathaki (i.e., small basket) stands out. The cheese takes its name from the small basket, traditionally made of wicker but now usually of plastic, which is used to strain it. It has been recognized since 1994 as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). While it has many similarities to feta in terms of the productions process, it retains its own unique flavor.
Kalathaki of Lemnos is a white, briny, wheel-shaped cheese and is similar to feta in its rich, pithy flavor, but is considered to have a tang that is sharper and less acidic, whilst the cheese has a semi-hard texture. Kalathaki is punctuated by small holes filled with drops of liquid fat. Produced exclusively in Lemnos, it is made from the milk of the island’s spring goats and sheep.
It is consumed as a table cheese, but is also used in many traditional recipes. It goes well with meat, while many local chefs use it as an ingredient, par excellence, for pita. Ideally, it is accompanied by fresh dry white wines.