Tenili cheese (Georgian: ტენილი ყველი) is Meskhetian cheese made in Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions from sheep or cow’s milk. The milk used must have a high fat content. Because it is difficult to make it was usually only made for celebrations. The technique for making this type of cheese was nearly lost but has been revived.
Traditional cheesemaker Galina Inasaridze from the village of Andriatsminda in the Akhaltsikhe municipality of Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region demonstrated how Tenili cheese is made at a cheese festival in Tbilisi.
Only sheep or cow’s milk with a high fat content is used to make Tenili.
Pieces of cheese are added to boiling water to soften it and make it pliable.
The pieces of softened cheese are then pressed together.
The cheese is then repeatedly stretched into thinner and thinner strands.
The stretched strands are dipped into boiling water several times during the stretching process to keep them pliable.
The stretching process is done quickly and continuously.
Once the cheese has been stretched into very fine strands it is immersed in cold, salted water (“Tsatkhi”) and left for at least 15 minutes (some cheese makers leave it for several hours).
The strands are then squeezed to removed excess liquid.
The strands of cheese are then hung to dry on a pole.
The cheese is then placed on a wooden board and left to completely dry. Once dry, the cheese is dipped in heavy cream and pressed by hand into large pots (from which the term “Tenili” comes) and covered with a cloth. After 2-3 days, the cheese is turned inside the pots and pressed again to remove any liquid. After a further 1-3 days the cheese is pressed again and the pots are turned upside down and placed on a layer of ash. The cheese is then stored in a refrigerator or cool place.