Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sharr Mountain (Kosovo) Sheep Cheese

About 17 miles outside of Prizren, Kosovo in the Sharr (Sar) mountains 
Sharr Mountains of Kosovo
lies the mountain village of Prevalla. It is located at 4,970 feet, and below beautiful Rock Peak which tops out at 6,532 feet. One of my favorite experiences on our recent trip to the Balkans was an experience we had there. Because we could not take our rental car into Kosovo (when I asked the rental car representative "why?", he called it a "war zone") we were being driven by a taxi driver. On our way to Prizren we stopped to stretch our legs and breathe in the cool mountain air when I heard the bleating and baaing of goats and sheep as they rushed out of an enclosure 

onto the cropped green mountain grass of what is a ski area in the winter. 
Soon I spotted a shepherd 
and two beautiful, large dogs that I learned were Sharr Mountain Dogs (or Sarplaninacs) which originated in these mountains. 
Sharr Mountain Dog
The sheep and goats looked happy as they fanned out to find the best bits of grass and I was warned not to approach the dogs while they were working as they could be ferocious in protecting the sheep. Eventually one of the dogs stood by the side of one of the local men who patted it gently and I cautiously approached and was given an okay to  scratch the dog behind its ears and pat its head. 
I wondered out loud to our taxi driver why Australian sheep dogs were so small and these dogs were so big and I was told of these dogs fighting off wolves and bears to protect the sheep. In fact, they said, two bears had been spotted just the day before, across the street and a short way up a ridge. Then, with our cab driver acting as an interpreter, we were invited to taste and buy some day-old sheep cheese for 5 Euro a kilogram. We were led into a small wood store and shown a plastic bucket with white sheep cheese.
A fairly large chunk was cut off and handed to each of us. 
The cheese was very mild, slightly sour, and had a plastic y texture, similar to that of Halloumi cheese. I was not particularly fond of the cheese, but the experience was so fun and unique, that we bought some cheese. Later that day, as we re-drove the same route on our way back to our hotel in Skopje, Macedonia, I told the driver that I wanted to stop and buy some of their older aged cheese which he'd told us they sell for 10 Euro a kilo. Unfortunately, they did not have any. We took the cheese we did  have back to our hotel where we tried it again that night, and in the morning, and reflected on the experience. 
One day old sheep cheese
It was the first time either Judy or I have seen a herd of sheep being guarded by a shepherd and/or dogs. The Biblical analogies to shepherds and sheep came to mind and in many ways it felt like we were watching a scene from hundreds of years ago. So although the cheese was not my favorite, this experience stands out as one of the gems of our trip.

Updated: February 2014

I find that Sar (or Sharr or Sharri) Cheese is a cheese made in the Sharr Mountains of Kosovo, known for its saltiness. It is traditionally a sheep cheese because cows were not hardy enough to reach the mountain grasses and herbs that gave it its distinctive taste. It was historically made by shepherds in wooden huts in mountain villages and also comes in a soft form, the kind we had. It is not generally sold until it has matured for weeks and transformed in color from white to yellow and absorbed the saltiness from the process. This explains why ours was what and not salty in the least.


  1. A war zone? That invites confidence!! Looking forward to your upcoming posts!

  2. I'm pretty sure those two cheese guys are father and son. Don't they look alike?

    One of the things I loved about this trip was the juxtaposition of old and new. Here, their old-fashioned herding and cheesemaking vs. that mini convenience store full of soft drinks and chips that they ran.