and our cheeses
and our cheeses
© THE BARON MICHAEL TOSSIZZA FOUNDATION
ATHENS OFFICE: Kolokotroni 29 10562. Tel: 2103231569, 2103229393, [email protected]
CHEESE FACTORY: 44200 Metsovo. Tel: 2656041235, 2656041312. [email protected]
THE BARON MICHAEL TOSSIZZA FOUNDATION’S
and our cheeses
The pamphlet you are holding
has been put together with loving care
and enthusiasm by the employees and friends
of The Michael Tossizza Foundation.
This project was started in 1990
at our cheese factory in Metsovo.
As our visitors had shown such great interest
in the making of our cheeses,
we decided to offer them a memento that would,
at the same time double as a concise handbook
on the art of making cheese.
The first edition was published in 1993.
Almost thirty years later, this edition includes information
about newly launched products of our cheese factory.
Milk, produced by female mammals during their
pregnancy and nursing periods, contains all the ingre-
dients necessary for the development of the newborn:
sufficient water, basic to all life
minerals, essential for the building of bones
various proteins and vitamins, necessary for the
physical development of the young
fat and sugars, providing energy and strength.
Sheep produce milk with more fat than cows.
Goats give milk with less fat than sheep and more
than cows. The human female, a mammal as well,
produces milk low in fat and rich in sugars - like
that of the donkey.
The quality of each batch of milk depends on the
health and diet of the animal creating it. An animal
poorly taken care of and ill-nourished will give milk
deficient in nutrients. A sick animal, subjected to poor
sanitary conditions, especially at milking, will provide
a substance that is both harmful and deleterious to
man. The conditions of its life (environment, physical
health, cleanliness, etc.) and the type of its food (fresh
or dried, the quality of the water) have great influence
on the milk produced. The animal grazing freely on
meadowlands will give milk very different in quality
from that of the one enclosed in a pen and fed dry
fodder. Free-ranging on green pasture in the summer
contributes to flavour which is more aromatic than the
less palatable of the animal cooped up in a pen and
given dry feed.
Many modern scientists prefer to seek ways to
increase the yield of milk rather than to study the
effect preservatives and other additives incorporated
into the dry fodder might have on the subsequent taste
of the milk. These scientists usually study the material
world, one they can see and touch. Flavour is neither
seen nor touched... The shepherd who makes his own
cheese from his own milk says: “Whatever you give,
you get back.” (i.e. the quality of the feed determines
the quality of the milk).
Flavour does not depend just on the feed given the
animal who produces the milk; it is affected by the
environment in which the animal lives as well. The
modern dairy farm offers conditions to its livestock
comparable to those a luxury dwelling provides for
mankind. Cows and sheep need but a simple pen
surrounded by mountains and stars.
Man has been making cheese from ancient times.
According to Greek mythology, Polyphemus (the
Cyclops who imprisoned Ulysses in Homer’s “The
Odyssey) was the first cheese-maker.
The exact etymology of the Greek word for
cheese, “tyri” (pronounced “tee ree”), is unknown.
Cheese is called “tyros” in “The Iliad” by Homer, in
“Cyclops” by Euripides and in “The Frogs” by Aristo-
Aristotle and Dioscourides gave us the first recipes
for the production of cheese and from them we know
that the ancients used the white “sap” from the
branches and unripe fruit of fig trees to curdle their
milk. According to Ctesias, Queen Semiramis “did not
eat cheese other than that produced from the milk of
white cows, and that the Greeks, having understood
the beneficial qualities of cheese, gave it to their
wrestlers to improve stamina.”
In the Middle Ages, monks produced cheese in
most of the monasteries of Europe. Many references
attest to the exceptional Parmesan consumed in the
monastery of Parma (to which the cheese presumably
owes its name). Until the nineteenth century, methods
of cheese-making were clearly empirical, passed on
from generation to generation, true of every tradition.
In 1848, Louis Pasteur was probably the first to
systematically study the process of fermentation: “It is
shown that fermentation is the result of the reaction of
a leavening agent that converts sugar to alcohol and
carbon dioxide--a souring process instigated by live,
air-born organisms. And, further, that heating the
liquid to 112 degrees Celsius sterilizes the milk by
promoting the destruction of any of the harmful
Cheese is the product of the curing of the solid
matter of the milk, which has been separated from the
liquid “whey” by the process of curdling (i.e. by the
addition of agents which sour it and draw out its
water). Definitions, though clear and concise, simply
offer up basic facts that give the impression that we
know something. But, “knowing” is one thing,
“understanding” quite another.
The old stockmen used to say: “from the udder’s
teat to the pot...”, (i.e. the cheese must be made imme-
diately after milking). When untreated, as fermenta-
tion (on which we will elaborate further) begins, the
milk sours, goes bad, and is microbiologically suspect
and dangerous. Therefore, we are obliged to pasteur-
ize our milk when uncertain of its origin.
What is pasteurization?
The peasant woman who knows the physical condi-
tion of her goats (constantly vigilant that they are
always clean) can risk producing cheese immediately
after the milking — without having first boiled the
Pasteurization begins from the minute the milk is
heated; once boiled, all the microorganisms needed to
make the cheese flavoursome are destroyed along
with the deleterious microbes.
In order not to alter the components which give cheese
its natural taste, the milk is heated slowly in stainless
steel vats, the temperature checked with a thermome-
ter, and the time needed to complete the pasteurization
with a timer. With “rapid” pasteurization, the tempera-
ture is higher and the time shorter than with the “slow”
process. One or the other methods is applied depend-
ing on the milk at hand and the kind of cheese to be
produced. Rapid pasteurization is used for bottled
milk and the cheese-processing factories where “Time
In traditional cheese-making plants, such as ours in
Metsovo, where we know the origin of our milk, we
use slow pasteurization in some circumstances. With
this slower process, better taste results are attained as
the components giving flavour and natural aroma are
not altered at the lower temperatures.
It is a great advantage for a cheese-making dairy to be
in close proximity to the meadowlands where the
animals can graze freely or near the stock pens where
they are housed. The sooner the milk can reach the
plant, the more the danger of its spoilage is reduced.
Milk is a vital, natural product. While in the udder of
a healthy mammal, it contains no dangerous microbes;
once in contact with the environment (air, human
hands, transport containers etc.), however, a host of
foreign microorganisms grow and multiply therein
How does milk curdle?
The peasant woman who knows that her milk is
pure and free of microbes does not pasteurize.
To make her cheese, she has only to add rennet -
often called “magia” (presumably because it works
like magic). She doesn’t need the help of cultures of
microorganisms as these are naturally found in the
According to an old myth, this process of curdling
milk with the addition of rennet was discovered by an
Arab trader who carried his camel’s milk in a leather
container fashioned from a lamb’s stomach. After a
long trek through the desert, he found cheese instead
of milk in his skin bag! During the journey, the heat
and the enzymes from the dried stomach lining had
curdled the milk...
Rennet is found in the stomachs of young animals
(not yet weaned). From her lamb, kid or calf, the
peasant woman collects a curdled milk which contains
two enzymes: rennin and pepsin. She dries this in the
sun, and subsequently clots her cheese with a small
amount of these enzymes. When she wants her cheese
“sweet”, she uses the rennet found in calves. If she
does not have a calf, or prefers more “savoury”
cheese, she uses that of a lamb. If she chooses the
rennet from a kid, the result has a very “peppery”
The flavour and aroma of those cheeses made
from unpasteurized milk is natural; the taste depends
wholly and completely on the chemical reactions of
the organisms already present in the milk. With facto-
ry-processed cheeses, on the other hand, the curdling
and fermentation are promoted by the addition of
standardized cultures and microorganisms which do
the job of the natural rennet.
What happens in the fermentation
Fermentation starts at the moment of milking
when the liquid comes in contact with air. In order to
understand this process, try to imagine a battle (invisi-
ble to the naked eye) raging inside the milk from the
onset of the cheesemaking process until the time the
cheese is ready.
On this field of battle we have:
on the one side, microorganisms allied in the
creation of good cheese
on the other, enemy microorganisms fighting to
destroy the process.
If the allies succeed, the cheese is good; if the
enemy wins, it spoils.
In most cases, large modern cheese-processing
factories transport the milk, already pasteurized, over
long distances. Thus, the “fermentation war” is
absolutely controlled from the start and is won easily.
The milk, having undergone complete pasteurization,
does not contain dangerous microorganisms. All have
already been destroyed. Cultured microorganism
allies enter like “conquering heroes”, and the battle is
decided before it’s even begun! The cheese thickens
quickly; the salts are added in exact measurements, as
are pepper and other spices (flavour-enhancers); and,
“in the twinkling of an eye,” the cheese arrives at the
refrigerators and store windows of large supermar-
The flavour of the cheeses produced in this way is
uniform and standard. Though rich-in-appearance
these cheeses are actually poorer-in-flavour to the
more traditionally-made cheeses. This is like compar-
ing the bread produced by a large modern factory to
the freshly-baked loaf of the local village woman.
“The eyes of the hare are one thing, those of the owl
quite another” (i.e. although alike, the one is not truly
comparable to the other).
In the small traditional cheese-making plants,
which either do not pasteurize at all, or in which the
process is carried out slowly, the job is not so easy.
Each stage requires special attention, as virtually
everything is done by hand, and harmful microorgan-
isms abound. Of course, the end result is a cheese
incomparably tastier, however, because in the
traditional way, the original components, such as the
proteins and fat which milk contains in its natural
state, are not tampered with. The temperature, time,
microorganisms, cultures or amount of rennet added
vary depending on the kind of cheese being manufac-
tured. If the sour components predominate, the cheese
can thicken in ten minutes; if sweet, the process may
require an hour.
Once the cheese is curdling, the cheese-maker:
(1) dips his hand in the vat and lifts out the solid curd
mass that has risen to the surface and has a consisten-
cy of yoghurt.
(2) knows that the process is completed when he sees
that the curd does not stick to his fingers, as it falls
back into the vat.
How the curd is cut
The next step in the process is the so-called “break-
ing up” or cutting stage. The solid mass is cut in
pieces with special tools called curd-cutters. We have
two categories of cheese: the soft like feta and
“telemes” and the hard such as graviera and “kefalo-
tyri.” In order to make soft cheese, we cut the curd in
rectangular pieces. The larger the pieces, the more
moisture the cheese contains. The hard cheese is both
more flavoursome and also more difficult to manufac-
ture. Influenced by some types of soft French-Levan-
tine style cheese, Europeans have accustomed the
market to the soft variety of cheese, (usually
processed much more easily, in a shorter period of
time and at less expense than the hard). Garlic or
onion powder (very popular flavour additives nowa-
days) is then often added to cover the subsequent
flavour weakness. The artificial flavourings, the
added vitamins and the gold packaging and fancy
labeling (which make such an impression), do not
INGREDIENT Let’s now leave the processed-cheese and turn to
CONTENT the real thing.
1 2 To make hard cheese, we use special tools to break
ΚΙLΟ ΚΙLOS the curd into fine pieces and then heat, stirring
SHEEP’S constantly, so that the moist lumps (ranging in size
MILK COW’S from that of a grain of rice to that of a hazelnut) do not
MILK form a solid mass. The aim here is to draw as much
16 water as possible from the curd. The cheese maker
picks up pieces of curd every now and then and tests
them. At the beginning of the process, these are soft
and break easily, but as time goes by, they become
harder and heavier as more and more water is
expelled. As the cheese makers say, the cheese
“works” continuously. The beneficial organisms
multiply and form an acidic environment in the mass
of cheese which helps to draw out the water. To get a
better idea of how much water milk contains, only 40
kilos of cheese can be processed from 500 kilos of
cow’s milk (only 25 kilos of Parmesan!). As we have
already mentioned that the milk of each animal differs
in its components, it is useful to know the following:
Sheep’s milk is the richest in components. 1 kilo of
sheep’s milk is equivalent to about 1,5 kilos goat’s
milk or 2 kilos cow’s milk.
Therefore, to make 1 kilo of hard cheese, 16 kilos
of cow’s milk is required.
In the cutting/breaking-up process, the
curd-mass (as the heavier component) sinks to
the bottom of the vat and the whey, used to make
soft cheese, like “mizithra” and the other “anthoty-
ro” type cheeses, stays on top. A special machine
then separates the fat from the whey, thereby provid-
ing cream from which butter is produced. This is
called a “skimmer” because it scrapes off (skims) the
lighter fat (“tyrogalo”) from the whey.
The curd mass is then lifted out of the vat with the
help of a “tsantila” (a linen cloth which acts like a filter
straining out the water while retaining the mass).
At this stage, the amorphous mass has no flavour. It
resembles a flavourless chewing gum in taste and
Seasoned with salt, it tastes like the Italian mozzarel-
la, served in expensive Italian restaurants.
How does cheese get its final form?
Once removed from the vat, the mass of curd is cut
warm by hand or by mechanical means and put in
molds to give the cheese its final form. The mass stays
in these molds for a period of time (depending on the
kind of cheese being manufactured) and pressure is
applied with wooden presses to draw out as much
moisture as possible. When cool, it is removed from
the molds and then is sent to be salted.
Why and how we salt cheese
There are three means of salting: wet, dry, and mixed
(a combination of the two).
Salting serves two purposes:
to keep the cheese from turning rancid.
to enable the cheese to acquire its final flavour.
The cheese firms up because more and more of its
liquid is drawn out with the following salting processes.
wet salting: the cheese quickly incorporates the
dry salting: coarse-grained salt is occasionally
thrown on the cheese, and absorption takes place
mixed salting: the cheese first is immersed in a
brine bath (in a vat containing a mixture of salt and
water) and then dry salted.
The aging of the cheese
Once the salting process is completed, the cheese is
transferred dry to the curing rooms. In this stage, the
main fermentation processes giving the cheese flavour
and aroma are completed. These occur in the curing
rooms under controlled conditions of temperature and
humidity, consistent with the variety of cheese being
The temperature here must reach 6-8 degrees
Celsius for the soft cheeses and 15-18 for the hard.
Humidity must be 90-95% and 80-85% respectively.
Also, good ventilation in the storerooms is an essential
condition for proper aging.
For the cheese to have flavour, the fermentation
process must proceed slowly. “Good things take time”
(just as a child needs 9 months in its mother’s womb to
emerge fully-formed and beautiful...). One can, of
course, speed up the curing process with mechanical
means, as is done in the ultra-modern, cheese-process-
ing factories, eager to get the cheese to market. The
milk goes in one end of the industrial complex and the
cheese out the other. Already packaged and ready for
consumption, it is microbiologically perfect, visually
impressive, with quality and taste uniformly consistent.
Again, as the saying goes: “The eyes of the hare are
one thing, those of the owl quite another.” It takes hard
work, time, and special care and attention to make a
cheese which makes one rejoice at the harmony of the
natural flavours. (Is it coincidental that modern market-
ing campaigns attempting to compare the “hares” with
the “owls,” insist on labeling that promotes the product
as “traditional” or “country-made?”)
* The cheese-making activities of Evangelos Averoff, during his stint as Foreign Minister in the
government of Constantine Karamanlis, inspired many of the best-known cartoonists of the day, such
as Fokion Dimitriadis of the newspaper TA NEA
The Tossizza Foundation opened the cheese facto-
ry in Metsovo, in 1958. This was not just from an
interest in providing employment opportunities for the
local Metsovo population.
The vision of Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza (who
set up the foundation with an endowment donated by
Michael Tossizza, resident of Switzerland and
descendent of the well-known Greek benefactor) was
to create a cheese dairy which would also be a school
for the practical art of cheese-making and a model for
the cheese-makers of the region...
Mr. Averoff arranged for several young men from
the village of Metsovo to travel to Italy to learn the art
of cheese-making. Sons of families of herders and
stockbreeders, these young men had, from a very
young age, watched and assisted their fathers in the
making of cheese - just as the previous generation had
learned from theirs. The theoretical knowledge which
they obtained from the famous northern Italian schools
in the art of cheese-making, coupled with the experi-
ence they had gained as children, contributed to the
making of consummate cheese makers, many of
whom today work and manage their own cheese plants
in the region.
Among these young men is Apostolis Bissas from
Metsovo, who stayed on at the foundation’s cheese
factory and, to this day, acts as an expert consultant. In
1968, at the age of twenty, he left for Italy and studied
at three schools. His diploma, which decorates his
office at the factory, is from the well-known Lodi
school. He, however, can be found most of the time
with his shirt sleeves rolled up in the areas where the
cheese is being made…
The young cheese makers from Metsovo succeed-
ed in combining the methods of the manufacture of
several Italian cheeses with the comparable, tradition-
al Greek method, preferring the types of hard cheeses
whose requirements better suit the milk produced in
the region of Metsovo. Thus, was born METSOVONE
(from the Italian equivalent, Provolone) which many
Italians find even tastier than their own.
When our new factory was visited by the Italian
Commissioner to the EEC, Lorenzo Natali, Apostolis
turned to him and said in Italian: “You know, we also
make a cheese which is as good as your grana (as
Parmesan is called in Italian). Natali smiled and said to
him: “Impossibile”. When Apostolis proudly offered
him a piece of Rezzana Tossizza, Natali tried it and
was completely shocked...
But you will understand just how much effort goes
into the making of this cheese as you read on.
When Apostolis first returned from Italy, he was
worried about risking the use of the 500 kilos of milk
necessary to make one “wheel” of Rezzana Tossizza
weighing 25 kilos He said to Mr. Averoff: “I’m afraid
I’ll ruin it, Mr. President.” Averoff answered: “You ruin
it; I'll pay for it... That’s how you'll learn...”
It is an advantage that our factory is located near
the source of the raw materials required. At the end of
May, all the herders of the area bring their flocks to the
mountains around Metsovo from the plains of
Thessaly, where they had been wintering since
October. Thus, our factory has the sheep’s milk, needed
in the summer, especially for the manufacture of
GRAVIERA, close at hand.
All year round, the Foundation’s truck starts out at
5:00 in the morning to collect the milk from the herders
of the entire area and eventually finishes its rounds at
Some time ago, in special circumstances, advances
were given to the small herder to help him surmount
economic difficulties and to store up on foodstuffs for
For years we had a close working relationship with
the American Farm School of Thessaloniki (especially
at the beginning when we still had our own cattle
station whose aim was the improvement of the quality
of the local herds) which supplied calves to the local
stockbreeders free-of-charge and offered the insemina-
tion services of a registered corps of bulls!
The first cows that Averoff obtained were the Switz
breed of Switzerland. Later, he brought Jersey cows
from the stock of Queen Elizabeth of England! He gave
each of them the name of a queen and ordered wooden
signs from the Foundation’s workshop to adorn the
stall of each cow in the barn. Written in large capital
letters were the names Victoria, Mary, Elizabeth, and
so forth, and underneath was added: “Last mounted*
on… (the date the event had taken place).”
He also bought a bull, officially registered as
Prince, sent to slaughter after the second year as he was
driven wild by the Metsovo cows and could not be
contained... he nearly tore the barnyard apart!
Averoff’s pride and joy, however, was Minos, a
Swiss specimen superb in both appearance and perfor-
mance. Whenever ladies from Athenian society would
visit, Averoff would give the order for all the cows to
parade in the farmyard’s pen. While his guests looked
on, Averoff would whistle furtively and Minos would
suddenly charge out and go at it! Averoff was clearly
trying to shock his audience, but the ladies, for the most
part, exhibited great enthusiasm, several even shouting
“Encore!” as though cheering a successful perfor-
mance at a concert hall.
* Please accept our apology for the realism of the expression, but the Minister
only used language such as this whilst away from his official duties for the
Β. Specifics and more modern procedures
Milk is brought to the cheese dairy either at dawn
on the mules of the shepherds or herders, or at about
10:00 a.m. in the Foundation’s truck. It is weighed
upon arrival in order to judge how much cheese it will
yield. Each lot is then sampled by our lab so that we
can check the quality of the milk we are getting. Then,
it is passed through a special mechanized filter to
remove any foreign bodies that might have fallen in
during milking or in transit.
When somewhat more organized dairies opened
that could provide us with the quality of the milk
required for several of our cheeses, we closed the
foundation‘s cattle station in the Vlacha area above
For the production of our REZZANA TOSSIZZA,
a specific cow’s milk recipe is required as the resulting
cheese aroma depends on the milk used.
For that matter, this applies to all our other cheeses
as well. The sheep’s milk, delivered at dawn to the
cheese factory, is immediately tested by our chemistry
lab, and the milk weighed to calculate the yield of each
After the inspection and weighing procedures
(before being transported to the production areas), the
milk is passed through a special filter to remove differ-
ent foreign solid materials that might have fallen into
the liquid during the milking and transportation.
As of 2020 (after the loss of our beloved director
Kostas Tritos) the entire production process has been
personally inspected by the current director of the
Foundation in Metsovo, Giorgos Tsompikos. As head
of the cheese factory from the time of the pensioning
of Apostolos Bissas, Giorgos (descendant of a large
herding Metsovo family and graduate of the American
Agricultural School of Thessaloniki) also attended the
Lodi School in Italy where he was trained in the
modern techniques of traditional cheese production.
Depending on the kind of cheese to be produced,
the milk is poured into stainless steel pipes and let
flow naturally by the pull of gravity to the vats situated
on the ground floor below.
METSOVONE: produced all year round
REZZANA TOSSIZZA: all year round
GELADISIO: all year round
METSOVELLA: Spring and Winter
GRAVIERA: from the 20th of May till the 20th of
July, when the sheep can graze freely in the area
GIDISIO GOAT CHEESE (chèvre ): Spring (April
to May) when the goats are fed on the first tender
leaves of holm-oak
The proportions of milk used for each of the cheeses
produced by our dairy are roughly the following:
CHEESE SHEEP MILK GOAT
REZZANA TOSSIZZA 20% COW 10%
METSOVONE (SMOKED) 80%
METSOVELLA 100% 100%
GIDISIO GOAT CHEESE (chèvre)
The pasteurization, curdling and “breaking up’
processes are carried out in vats. We use our own
strain of culture starters for the curdling process. This
is the flora of our dairy, the secrets of which are
understandably kept under lock and key.
After the milk has curdled and the curds have
separated from the whey, each cheese then starts its
own special process.
For the METSOVONE:
(1) The cheese-maker passes the cloth (tsantila) under
the curds at the bottom of the vat.
(2) He lifts out the
cloth holding the
curd and places the
into a wooden tub,
where it stays in a
for a period of one
(3) Then, he performs a “rehearsal” (or “prova” in
Italian, hence the cheese provolone.) He takes a piece
of curd, plunges it in warm water and then kneads and
stretches it. When he sees that it stretches without
breaking, he knows that he can continue the process.
(4) He softens the curds in the basin with a large
wooden paddle until they acquire a uniform con-
(5) He breaks off sections from the main curd mass,
wets them with warm water, and then hand-kneads
them, giving the pieces their elastic oblong shape.
(6) He fits the oblong pieces into metal molds to give
them their final shape and, then immerses these for 6-7
hours in a cold-water bath.
For the METSOVELLA, GRAVIERA and GIDISIO
(chèvre ) varieties, the curds are transported (with the
“tsantila”) to a wooden table and, from there, while
still warm, are pressed into molds. The cheeses are
then circled by the “hoops” of their metal molds, and
pressure is applied by means of weights to remove
excess moisture and to give them their final shape.
CHEESE FACTORY With REZZANA TOSSIZZA, both the vat and the
process are slightly different. The cows’ milk goes
THE MICHAEL TOSSIZZA non-pasteurized into a cone-shaped, stainless steel
FOUNDATION vat. When the milk has curdled, and the curds are
ready to be broken up, a mechanical curd-cutter is
REZZANA TOSSIZZA inserted that rotates continuously breaking up the
curd into very fine pieces, stirring constantly to avoid
lumping. In this way, as much water as possible is
drawn out. To achieve the richness of the components
that give the cheese its flavour, good REZZANA
TOSSIZZA must be extremely hard. The pieces sink
to the bottom of the vat that, as we mentioned above,
is conical (wide at the top and narrow at the bottom)
in order for the cheese to acquire its final shape
immediately upon falling to the bottom of the vat.
After the whey has been separated from the curds,
the REZZANA TOSSIZZA is transferred onto a large
wooden table to cool.
Finally, it is placed in its special wooden mold and a
press applied so as to remove as much moisture as
possible. A REZZANA TOSSIZZA wheel weighs
between 25-27 kilos and requires 500 kilos of milk to
REZZANA TOSSIZZA takes at least two years to
ripen in the aging rooms. The original 40 kilo mass loses
about another 15 kilos, as it expels more and more
moisture as it ages.
Salting is the next stage of the process for all the chees-
METSOVONE and GELADISIO are soaked in a brine
bath (wet salting). The number of days kept in brine is
exactly equivalent to the number of kilos it weighs (i.e.
three days, three kilos). The cheese quickly absorbs the
salt it requires.
GRAVIERA undergoes dry salting. The cheese is
enveloped in coarse-grained salt that it absorbs slowly.
Salting goes on for many days (nearly a month) in
order to promote the special reactions required to
create the “holes” in the cheese. The so-called “propi-
onic” fermentation produces carbon dioxide that is
entrapped inside the curd mass, thereby creating the
METSOVELLA is first immersed in a brine bath for
two days, after which, coarse salt is added to the result-
ing cheese (mixed salting).
With the GIDISIO (chèvre variety), the curds are
seasoned with peppercorns, placed in the molds, and
then treated with wet salting.
REZZANA TOSSIZZA undergoes wet salting, kept in
a brine bath for 20-30 days.
When the cheeses are ready for ripening, they are
wiped clean and sent to the aging rooms:
METSOVONE cheeses are suspended by rope from
the ceiling in order to avoid touching any surface.
METSOVELLA and GRAVIERA are placed on
wooden blocks while REZZANA TOSSIZZA (which
is heavy) is placed on strong wooden shelves. These
are turned regularly to ensure that the same side is not
always resting on the wood.
Cheeses such as METSOVONE, METSOVELLA and
GRAVIERA, require three months (at the very least,
two and a half) in order to ripen properly.
In the last stage of maturation, METSOVONE is
transferred to the smoke house to be cured. The chees-
es are smoked over burning vine branches, aromatic
leaves and grasses. They are kept in the room as long
as necessary to acquire their characteristic smoky
flavour. Time in the smoke room depends on size.
METSOVONE passes through the hands of our
cheesemakers 25 times!
Cheeses such as GRAVIERA and REZZANA
TOSSIZZA are brushed clean every two days to
remove any mold that might have formed on the
The opposite is true for METSOVONE where the
mold assists in the fermentation which gives it its
When the curing process is complete, the
cheese-maker brushes the cheeses as though he were
bathing his own children!
As Apostolis says: “Cheese needs to be caressed to be good...”
The tangible characteristics of the cheeses we
produce at our dairy are as follows:
METSOVONE: This well-known smoked cheese
(inspired by cheeses with shaped molded curd) is
produced in the traditional way. Produced year in and
year out from cow and goat-sheep (up to 20%) milk,
this is a semi-hard cheese, smoked with wet salting.
Characteristic of METSOVONE is the souring of the
curd with physical, natural cultures. A table cheese
with aroma and taste at first mild (sweet), turns, with
the passage of time, stronger (savoury). It has a long,
thin shape, with a compact, elastic mass, without
holes. Inside, the cheese is white; the rind (with its
wax coating) yellowish to golden-brown. It is aged
for three months, in an environment with controlled
temperature and humidity. Smoking (with vines and
aromatic grasses) is done at the end of the aging
process. The cheese is produced in five sizes (1kilo,
1.5 kilos, 2.5 kilos, 4.5 kilos, and 25 kilos).
GRAVIERA: A traditional cheese, from pastur-
ized, goat-cheese milk, this is produced strictly
between the 20th of May to the 20th of July, the
period in which the flocks return to Metsovo and can
graze freely on fresh grasses. In the hard-cheese
category, with a compact mass, this cheese original-
ly has a sweet aroma, which, through the aging
process develops a savoury, pungent taste with a
buttery aftertaste. This white-yellow cheese has a
light-coloured, paraffin coating. Aging takes four
months under controlled temperature and
humidity conditions. It is produced in round
wheels of 12 kilos, preserved at 2-4 degrees
METSOVELLA: A typical, semi-hard cheese,
this is produced in the spring and winter from a
mixture of pasturized sheep-cow-goat milk. It is
distinguished for its characteristic rich aroma and
taste. A compact, elastic mass, it has a white-yellow
colour with a red paraffin exterior.
Cylindrical-in-shape, it weighs 1,4 kilos. Aging takes
three months under controlled temperature and
humidity conditions. It is maintained at 2-4 degrees
GIDISIO GOAT CHEESE (“chèvre”): A
semi-hard table cheese, this is manufactured from
100% pasteurized goat’s milk and produced with
traditional methods in early spring when the goats
feed on the first tender leaves of the holm-oak. It is
thickened with natural rennet, which lends it a
pungent, sharp taste with the characteristic aroma of
black pepper. Uniquely, it ages in conditions of low
temperature and high humidity for thee months.
Internally white with black pepper specks, externally
with a white paraffin coating, this cheese takes a
cylindrical shape and weighs 1,2 kilos. It is conserved
between 2-4 degrees Celsius.
GELADISIO: A semi-hard cheese made from
100% pasteurized cow’s milk, this is a more refined
table cheese with the sweet taste preferred by modern
consumers. Produced from kneaded curds, it has a
compact structure, white interior colour and white
paraffin coating, long, narrow cylindrical shape and 1
kilo weight. Aging takes three months; conservation
between 2-4 degrees Celsius.
REZZANA TOSSIZZA: Produced by our factory
from 1959, this is a hard cheese containing little
moisture, little fat and many proteins. Produced from
May until September from 100% cow’s milk, this is
an especially difficult and expensive cheese to make
as it requires 16 kilos of milk for every kilo of cheese.
For its compact structure, it requires two years of
aging under controlled conditions. It is distributed in
packaging of 350-500 grams and as grated cheese.
Our cheeses are hard to find. Production is limited
by the quantities of milk available in the region and
the traditional methods of production. We process
approximately 1,600 tons of (predominately cow’s)
milk a year, producing about 170 tons of cheese
(mostly METSOVONE). We make only about 60
wheels of REZZANA TOSSIZZA a year, the
equivalent of 1.5 tons.
Although we do know alternative methods that
can produce larger quantities, we do not adopt these
because this would mean compromising on quality.
You will find our cheeses at cheese shops and general
stores in Metsovo and at select outlets in Athens,
Thessaloniki, and Ioannina. They might seem
expensive, but readers of this pamphlet will
understand the reason why:
“Quality takes time and does not come cheap.”
Flavour is neither seen nor touched... and,
therefore, cannot be readily described. At any rate,
adjectives are relative - employed to suit each and
everyone’s own purposes. So, rather than overwhelm
you with adjectives, describing the sensations of taste
and smell, we prefer to invite you instead to try our
In 1981, Remo Paolini, the Italian Ambassador to
Greece, wrote to Mr. Averoff, “your grana does not
just sing; it also gives us wonderful melodies...” He
was not simply referring to the aroma and flavour of
the Rezzana Tossizza but, also, to the crunching sound
that Italians claim is the true mark of a choice
Education at our cheese factory is not simply
based on theory and technique. We utilize these, but,
at the same time, we believe in the folk saying
“Through intellect and knowledge, some can find
The vision, the work, the enthusiasm, and the
“rennet” we all owe to ONE man. If you can see us,
Mr. President, we hope you are smiling.
This English edition was printed in 2022 by Panos Davias.
Knowledge, experience, and inspiration were provided by Apostolis Bissas
and Giorgos Tsompikos from Metsovo,
who manage the Tossizza Foundation’s cheese dairy.
In addition to the images from the Tossizza Foundation’s archive,
photographs were taken by Vassilis Georgiou of Epirus
who has his own studio in Athens.
Material was compiled by the multi-talented artist, Kostas Tzimoulis,
from Drossopigi, Konitsa.
Sketches were drawn by Vassilis Harissis, the architect and town planner
from Ioannina who is notable for his exceptional sensitivity
to both space and time in whatever he undertakes.
Text was written by the current President of the Foundation, Tassos Averoff,
with a chemical engineering degree from
the National (Metsovian) Technical University of Athens.