What is kaymak?

Pastures, cows and incredible fresh air…Welcome to Serbia. A place where you will laugh, enjoy, have fun, and most of all eat well. There is no house here you will leave hungry. People here believe that all the love goes throughout our stomach and they will feed you well. Food here has a special meaning and, I believe different than anywhere in the world. People here truly love food.

Serbia is the country that has a great number of gastronomic products. They are either homemade or produced in workshops or industry. One of these products is kaymak (Serbian “kajmak”).

What is kaymak

It is a diary product, creamy and of specific taste. Kaymak is made of milk of cows, goats or sheep. It has a special place in the diet of people who live here. Kaymak also found a deserved place in restaurants all over the country. It is mostly an inevitable part of cold and warm appetizers but, not rarely a part of soups, main courses, etc. It’s mostly homemade, and like that it’s the tastiest and the best. Industrial production of kaymak is getting more popular, but the best is still the one made at home, in the countryside (because it is still impossible to preserve its nutritive values in industrial production). Mountains Zlatibor and Tara are famous for it.

The production and consumption of kaymak have long tradition and are one of the symbols of this country. It belongs to the group of exclusive milk products.

Between cheese and butter

In the classification of dairy products it takes the place between cheese and butter. It has very specific characteristics (especially by content of fats and proteins). It has high nutritive value. It’s mostly produced of cow’s milk but it can also be made of other kinds of milk.

Depending on maturity, it is divided into young and mature.

“Young” kaymak

This is the product which is ready for eating right after it’s made. You can preserve it in the fridge for one or two weeks. According to its structure, it is similar to some cheese (foliated structure with a lot of milk fat), but it is softer. Its color is extremely light (it depends on the milk used for its preparation). The smell and the taste of the young kaymak are mild and milky, they remind of milk, so it is closer to butter than to cheese.

“Mature” or “old” kaymak

During the process of ripening there are many different processes (physical and chemical). This process lasts for one or more than one months. It’s easier to grease kaymak and its structure is now very close to butter. Kaymak now has a very distinctive smell and taste.

The name and origin of kaymak

Kaymak is being made for centuries but before today’s name it was called “skorup” (in mountainous areas), which means “crust”-referring to the greasy layer of milk. The word “kaymak” or “kajmak” is of Turkish origin. Besides regular consumption it was also used for preparation of butter.

Traditional way of preparing kaymak

We have already mentioned that kaymak is a product used and made for centuries, very famous and important. Its special structure and taste make it so special that in Serbian cuisine it is irreplaceable. It’s also a very important part of meals here and always part of important events, such as birthday lunches, family gatherings, weddings, etc.

There are different ways of preparing it but traditional way still gives the best kaymak you can eat. In Serbian countryside you will find many households that produce it. Men and women here (mostly women) get up early in the morning to take care of cows, sheep or goats and take their fresh, healthy milk. Villagers take care a lot about their animals and supply them the best grass and food. The better they feed their animals, the better will milk that those animals give them be.

The traditional process (recipe) of making kaymak starts with boiling milk. After it’s boiled, it is left in opened shallow dish. While the milk is getting cold, a crust is formed on top of milk. That is the first phase. The next is the process off slow cooling until milk reaches the temperature of about ten to fifteen Celsius degrees. This lasts from twelve to twenty-four hours, sometimes longer. During the process of cooling fats from milk come up on the surface and this together with a crust forms kaymak.

The amount of kaymak is equal to the amount of fats in milk and the surface of milk, and opposite to the height of milk and the speed of temperature falling. Now formed kaymak is being delayed in layers and salted (in wooden dishes mostly). This process is repeated every day in the same way.

It can be used immediately (young kaymak) or later (mature kaymak).

The most important is milk. Without good, quality milk you can’t produce good kaymak. It is still hard to make industrial one and preserve its taste and all nutritive values. But no matter which one you prefer, young or mature, the fact is you’ll enjoy it. It is a part of many meals and it gets along with almost everything.

Just a thought of fresh cheese, smell of delicious corn bread, roast and inevitable kaymak takes me straight into the villages of Serbia. It brings memories of grandparents and beautiful childhood. Feeling that these memories cause are exactly those you should carry with you when you decade to leave Serbia.

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