Find out the complicated process behind making this rare Lebanese cheese. 

Elisabeth Sherman
June 06, 2017

One of the world’s rarest, and oldest, cheeses in the world is made in Lebanon through a traditional, though complicated, process that may be dying out. 

As the BBC reports, the cheese, called Ambarees, is around 2,000 years old. Ambarees is made in clay jars. The cheese is now made mostly in the small Lebanese town of Baalbek, in the summer and early fall months.

Those practitioners that still make the cheese in the traditional way – and there are few of them remaining – fill the clay jar with milk, and then cover the top of the jar with a cloth. When the water separates from the milk, plugs at the bottom of the jar are released, letting the water drain out.

Then, from May to October, salt and more milk are added to the curd twice a week as it dries. The cheese stays fresh for up to a year using this method, making it one of the oldest ways to preserve food in the world.

The food that is produced in Baalbek, including Ambarees, and olives, eggplant, and yogurt, are produced and then stored for eating during the winter.

The Lebanese woman in Baalbek who still makes Ambarees, whom the BBC spoke with, says that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the traditional clay pot used for cheese production in homes anymore. She explains that the jars are usually passed down through families who have taken care of them through generations.

Ambarees is a traditional wintertime snack in Lebanon, where people spread it on flat bread, which is grilled on wood-fire stove, and then eat it like sandwich.

The cheese – though it’s not the homemade version that comes from the clay pot – can now be found more commonly in markets in Beirut, where one vendor said that most people don’t have time to make it through the traditional method anymore. Sadly, if people don't start finding the time, the ancient custom that created this cheese may disappear forever.