Buried Cheese is an old Assyrian favorite! Cheese is mixed with caraway, anise, and cumin seeds, then buried until aged to perfection. It's enjoyed with pita bread and tea for breakfast.
About this recipe
"Buried cheese?" Yes, buried cheese! You see, that is a direct translation of what this recipe is named in Assyrian, "Joopta Doomirtah."
But don't worry, I won't ask you to bury anything, I promise! The name buried cheese simply describes how this cheese used to be prepared in Iraq in the old days.
My mom explained that a large clay jar would be filled with a mixture of cheese and spices. The jar would then be topped with sheep's wool.
After this, the clay jar would be covered with muslin and tied in place with rope. Finally, mud was smeared over the muslin to seal the jar.
So where does the "buried" part come in?
Be patient, I'm getting there...Burying the jar came next. The jar would be buried in the earth upside down.
Over time, the wool would absorb the excess oil that drained from the cheese.
During the summer months, the jar was watered regularly. Why you ask? Who knows! But come winter, the jar would finally be unearthed, revealing the "buried cheese" which was ready to enjoy.
At that point, the jar would be turned right side up and returned to the ground to keep cool. They didn't have refrigerators back then, you know.
The jar would be accessed every morning. Only enough cheese would be removed to have with their breakfast.
The cool ground not only kept the cheese from spoiling but also gave the cheese an earthy flavor.
What Goes Into This Recipe
How to Make Buried Cheese
Grate the cheese using a medium grater, add gorgonzola, if using.
Soak the anise, caraway, and cumin seeds in water for 10 minutes, to soften.
Drain the seeds and add them to the cheese.
Grab handfuls of the cheese and seeds and rub between your hands, and drop back into the bowl. Or use a fork in a similar fashion to cutting butter into flour when making a pastry crust.
Continue doing this until the cheese no longer resembles grated cheese and begins to clump together. This process helps the flavors of the seeds to infuse into the cheese.
Pour the cheese into a glass jar or a container. Press down with your hands to compact the cheese. Why? Because that's what mom did, don't question mom!
To serve, simply spoon a few tablespoons of cheese into toasted pita bread pockets. Serve with Kalamata olives and hot tea.
This cheese can be refrigerated for up to a month.
Authentic Buried Cheese
Obviously, this recipe isn't 100% authentic, since we're not burying, or aging the cheese. However, it is a good substitute for the original recipe, and way more convenient!
After all, who wants to be caught by their neighbors, burying things in their backyards? I know I don't!
If you don't want to make your own buried cheese, you can purchase it. Don't believe me? Just head to my friend, Atorina's, website to purchase some today: https://www.buriedcheese.com
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Buried Cheese (Joopta Doomirtah)
- 1 tsp. anise seeds
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 8 oz Asiago or kasseri cheese (or a combination of both)
- 4 oz. gorgonzola (or additional Asiago/Kasseri)
- Grate the cheese using a medium grater, add gorgonzola, if using.
- Soak the anise, caraway, and cumin seeds in water for 10 minutes, to soften.
- Drain the seeds and add them to the cheese.
- Grab handfuls of the cheese and seeds and rub between your hands, and drop back into the bowl. Or use a fork in a similar fashion to cutting butter into flour.
- Continue doing this until the cheese no longer resembles grated cheese and begins to clump together. This process helps the flavors of the seeds to infuse into the cheese.
- Pour the cheese into a glass jar or a container. Press down with your hands to compact the cheese. Why? Because that’s what mom did, don’t question mom!
- To serve, simply spoon a few tablespoons of cheese into toasted pita bread pockets. Serve with Kalamata olives and hot tea.
- This cheese can be refrigerated for up to a month.
This recipe was originally published on 1/1/2018. It was updated on 3/2/2020 by adding more information, new pictures, and reducing the portion sizes.
Zaya Toma says
Do you know how the cheese was made to make this?
I know for convenience you can use an aged cheese with cumin seeds to get that taste immediately, but what if you wanted to make the actual cheese and bury it so that it ages.
Hilda Sterner says
Hi Zaya, If only I knew that recipe, I would have posted it for sure. Unfortunately, my mom never explained exactly what the recipe was, just the process of burying it in the jars etc. I would love to learn how to actually make the cheese as well and if I ever find out, I will share what I learn!
Cynthia Donahey says
People buried in different ways. root cellars, wells, a secret ledge in the cellar, natural caves, etc. These did not freeze in the winter. Water is supposedly at its best at around fifty degrees. People used crumble or naturally decayed wood and sand. this is not the same as dirt.They were very secretive about it, because of theft to include family members.. You can dig down a certain depth and get things cool. You can store actual plants, vegetables etc. A spring with wet stone was ideal unless it became contaminated. And of course, people made or bought ice. Miners did incredible things.
Hilda Sterner says
Yes, I imagine there were many ways to accomplish this. I shared how my parents and grandparents did it, but I'm sure there's more than one way to bury cheese. 😉 Thank you for the additional info!
David Warda says
On her back porch, steps that led to the basement had a plot of earth underneath. There my grandmother buried the cheese. It was golden yellow, pungent, and a staple on her breakfast table. Thanks for the memory jog.
Hilda Sterner says
Hi David, I love that you know the actual location of the buried cheese. I wish I had similar memories. Instead, I just repeat the memories shared by my mother. Thank you for leaving a comment! ❤️
I’m your fan from Instagram
I tried your keba Halab it was amazing
I will try this recipe too
I recognized your name, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed the kubba and I really appreciate your comment. Please let me know what you think of the buried cheese!