Buried Cheese (Joopta Doomirtah)
Buried cheese? Yes, buried cheese! You see, that is a direct translation for this recipe’s Assyrian title “Joopta (cheese) Doomirtah (buried).” But don’t worry, I won’t ask you to bury anything, I promise! The name buried cheese simply describes how this recipe used to be prepared in Iraq in the old days. Mom shared that a large clay jar would be filled with cheese and spices, then topped with sheep’s wool. The opening of the clay jar would then be covered with muslin and tied in place with rope. Mud was smeared over the muslin to seal the jar.
But Was It Really Buried?
So what’s with the “buried” part? Well, that’s what came next; the jar would be buried, upside down. Over time, the wool would absorb the excess oil and liquid that drained from the cheese. During the summer months, the jar was watered regularly. Why? Who knows! But come winter, the jar would finally be unearthed, revealing that the cheese had aged to perfection! At that point the jar would be turned right side up and returned to the ground to keep cool. Each day the jar would be accessed to scoop out just enough cheese to have with breakfast. Is that the coolest story, or what? Obviously, this recipe isn’t 100% authentic, since we’re not burying and 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?