Metsovone (mets-oh-VOE-ne), named after the Vlach capital Metsovo, a beautifully preserved, historic mountain town situated at an important impasse in the Pindus Mountains, is one of the most revered cheeses in Greece. It is in the pasta filata family of cheeses. Metsovone is semi-hard and naturally smoked. Although it is one of the specialty regional cheeses protected as a designation of origin product (PDO), Metsovone, is modeled after another pasta filata type of cheese, the Italian provolone. The cheese was the brainchild of the local, aristocratic, and politically powerful Tossitsa family, who a generation ago saved Metsovo by building cheese-making and winemaking facilities as a way to keep young locals from migrating out of the region. As part of this project, they sent several young cheese makers to Italy for training, and a new family of Italian-influenced Greek cheeses was born.
It is one of the few PDO cow’s milk cheeses in Greece, made from either raw or pasteurized cow’s milk or a combination of 80% cow’s milk and up to 20% raw or pasteurized sheep’s and/or goat’s milk. Whey from the previous day’s cheese making is added to the milk, so that it totals about 2% of the mixture. The milk and whey are heated to about 35 degrees Celsius and then rennet is added for coagulation. About a half hour after the milk is set, the curds are collected and cut into large round pellet-shaped pieces, roughly the size of hazelnuts. The curds are heated and stirred until the curds settle. The whey is drained off at that point, and the cheese mass cut into large strips which are submerged in boiling water and stretched until they attain a pliable texture and shiny finish (this is the pasta filata method). The cheese is removed and kneaded then pressed into its large sausage-shaped molds, which are then salted in brine. It is left to ripen for about five months before consumption.
Metsovone, with its full, rich flavor, is an excellent table cheese, although it makes a wonderful grilling cheese. Grilled round slices of Metsovone sprinkled with paprika or cayenne pepper are one of the specialties in the many tavernas in Metsovo.