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Kopanisti, a PDO cheese from the Cycladic islands, is a spicy, salty, soft white cheese made from various milks and sun-matured for a unique flavor.

close-up of bowl with Greek ‘Kopanisti’ means soft white cheese and slices of bread in the background

Kopanisti is a salty, spicy, soft white cheese that has a Protected Designation of Origin and for more than 300 years has been produced in the Cycladic islands. It is an appetizer characteristic of the island of Mykonos.

It is made from all kinds of milk: not only pasteurized goat and sheep milk but cow’s milk as well. Rennet is put into milk at room temperature and remains there for several hours. The milk is reduced, the curd collected and salted and then kneaded by hand into a homogenous mass. Then, it is left in the sun and afterward kneaded repeatedly over two or three days. Next, it is placed in large cloth bags, with large stones placed on top to squeeze out the moisture. The more moisture squeezed out, the better. Finally, the kopanisti is packaged well and refrigerated for storing. It has a spicy hot taste that leads some people to think that red pepper has been added. The reality is that the more the kopanisti is left in the sun to mature, the spicier it becomes.

During summertime, it is used as a spread on locally produced Mykonos paximadi, with tomato, olive oil and oregano (and sometimes olives). The tomato and the olive oil dampen the spicy taste. It is uniquely combined with fruit, mainly grapes, figs, and pears, in tarts or salads. It accompanies tsipouro or ouzo. But it goes just as well with sweet sparkling or sweet red wine.

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