In September 2017, after almost 15 years of hard work by local producers, the traditional skill of producing Montenegrin layered cheese received the status of immaterial cultural property of decisive significance. This was an essential step to branding the layered cheese from the Kolašin region with the protected designation of origin.
Montenegro is heaven for young cheese lovers. You can find it in a variety of structures and tastes at any town market. Well-salted or unleavened, thicker or paper-like, and flat or rolled layers of young cheese are widely used in traditional Montenegrin cuisine.
Kolašin cheese has a delicate layered structure and unobtrusive taste. To produce 1kg of Kolašin cheese, it takes an entire day of careful work and 12 liters of cow milk. "Lisnati sir“, "listan“ or "listać“ - regardless of the name and exact geographical origin (though it’s mostly produced in northern villages) - is always produced from a mixture of cured and skimmed cow's milk and whole uncooked milk. The ratio of the skimmed and unprocessed milk affects the final fat of the cheese. The two, sometimes three milk parts are mixed into a larger metal bowl, warmed to a temperature of about 35 degrees Celcius, and fermented. The fermentation process usually takes place in the morning. After it has fermented for 20 minutes, many soft and round layers, in an abundance of whey, are visible. The whey is then drained, and the cheese is placed into a mold to be sealed and left under wooden pressure for several hours. When all of the whey is drained, the cheese is ready.
If there is a secret in this long process, it is correctly assessing the natural acidity of the skimmed milk and gently mixing it with the fresh whole milk before fermentation. This traditional knowledge and skill are of crucial importance for the quality and success of making the layered cheese.
This kind of cheese, of course, is best found and tasted in the region of its origin – in the valleys of Kolašin, Mojkovac, Bijelo Polje and Berane, however, it appears at coastal markets, such as the traditional Saturday piaca at the Kotor Old Town walls. The price is around 8-10 euro per 1kg and the cheese can be stored refrigerated for 3-4 days.
Today, this cheese is sold nowhere else outside Montenegro.