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Sirarsko društvo Bohinj (Bohinj Cheesemaking Society) Monika Ravnik
(person in charge)
(person in charge)
Tourist Farm Gartner
Preparing Mohant cheese
Throughout the centuries, cheesemaking represented an important economic activity in the Bohinj area and the broader Alpine region. Due to its geographical features, Alpine farming was one of the region's main economic occupations, and so the production and sale of cheese – including Mohant cheese – formed the basis of the region's cuisine and economy. Two special types of traditional local cheese are preserved in the Bohinj area: the Bohinj cheese and the Mohant.
Mohant cheese is a traditional dairy product; its distinctive, slightly tangy and bitter taste and strong smell make it different from any other cheese produced in Slovenia. Historically made in remote places, far from the main roads or milk collecting locations, the Mohant was made from surplus milk which the local farmers could not sell.
Mohant cheese is presently made on approximately fifteen farms situated in the municipality of Bohinj, either for the farmers' own consumption or as a registered supplementary economic activity. While in the first, generally more frequent case, the cheese is made in people's homes, usually in kitchens, several farmers have built small cheese dairies on their property.
The manufacturing process of Mohant is as follows: when the milk is heated, the cheesemaker adds rennet. After twenty to forty minutes, the milk curdles. The curd is then roughly cut, stirred, and strained through a cloth or sieve. When the whey has been drained, the curd is mixed with salt and placed in containers. Until the 1980s, the cheese was shaped into loaves weighing two kilograms each, placed in wooden containers and left to age. Later on, many farmers started placing layer upon layer of cheese into plastic containers instead. The cheese is then pressed, covered with a linen cloth and a wooden lid, and additionally weighted. Then, it is left to ripen for a period between four to six weeks, with excessive whey constantly drained. During this period the cheese acquires its typical sharp pungent flavour, light-yellow colour and plastic texture.
Mohant cheese is generally consumed as an ingredient or side of everyday dishes and meals. It is eaten with bread or with boiled sliced potatoes; it adds flavour to corn and buckwheat mush, roast potatoes, soups, and fried eggs. Housemakers created and wrote down some modern recipes for its preparation, for example in pastries, cookies, omelettes, and main dishes. These newly-created dishes with Mohant cheese serve to enrich the existing tourist offer and catering services, particularly on agritourism farms.
Mohant cheese plays a significant role in the economy of the local farms and the culinary offer of Bohinj. Preservation of the knowledge of its production process and its use in cooking is, thus, of exceptional importance for the safeguarding, presentation and fostering of ethnographic characteristics and cultural heritage in northwest Slovenia, particularly in Bohinj and in the area of the Triglav National Park.
Cheesemaking historically represented a vital economic activity in the Bohinj area and the broader Alpine region. Due to its geographical features, Alpine farming was one of the main economic endeavours of the land, and the production and sale of cheese – including Mohant – stood as the basis of the region's cuisine and economy. The exact history and age of this particular style of cheesemaking remain unknown, though before the Second World War, ethnologist Rajko Ložar already wrote that the production process of Mohant was simple and very old, having been practiced since before the emergence of the hard cheeses of Bohinj. Making fresh cheese, including Mohant, is namely a traditional local practice, once widespread across Slovenia before the novel techniques common to Swiss hard cheeses were introduced in mid-19th century.
Mohant fresh cheese was once made from the surfeit of milk, or from milk of lower quality, and the rennet traditionally obtained from calves. Mohant was used in private households for the preparation of meals and certain traditional dishes. Because of the special ripening process it undergoes, Mohant cheese has a truly unique and characteristic flavour. It is desirable that Mohant is made from the milk of a cow breed indigenous to Bohinj, the cika, but milk from cows of other breeds is also allowed.
LEARNING AND TRANSMISSION
The learning and transmission of the skills of making Mohant cheese generally take place within the family, from generation to generation. Recipes for the usage of Mohant cheese in the kitchen are disseminated in the same manner. Simona Kejžar, cheese producer from the ecological farm Pr' Tonejovc, says young people from Bohinj are increasingly interested in cheesemaking, and the older experienced producers of Mohant are glad to offer their guidance and assistance.
Individuals from Bohinj and the Bohinj Cheesemaking Society care for the preservation of the traditional Mohant recipe and oversee the correct use of its name. Additionally, their effort to pass this knowledge onto younger generations of cheesemakers is of crucial importance for the preservation of the craft in the region.
The role of Mohant cheese in the life of the population of Bohinj and its vicinity is quite considerable, particularly in the farmers' lives and economy, food culture, folklore and folk medicine. Many folk tales, anecdotes and jokes associated with Mohant cheese feature in the folk tradition, especially in connection with its strong and pungent odour. Consequently, Mohant cheese carries significance in the development and growth of the hospitality industry and tourism in the region. Today, the production of Mohant cheese is widespread on most farms within the Bohinj Municipality. The process of making Mohant at home is highly traditional, relatively unchanged in the historical sense. Nowadays, production of Mohant cheese also takes place in several organised cheese dairies, e.g. in Brod and Srednja Vas. In the summer, Mohant is also made in the mountains, e.g. in Zajamniki, Laze, Zadnji Vogel and Krstenica, while many farms in Bohinj produce it all year round. The Bohinj Cheesemaking Society (Sirarsko društvo Bohinj) plays an essential role in the preservation, promotion and legislation of this heritage. It is safe to state that Mohant cheese has become a staple feature of the Bohinj area. Official recognition of Mohant by the European Union, which granted it the status of a protected designation of origin, has had positive effects on the domestic business in Bohinj, fanning interest in this type of cheese.
The first activities to preserve Mohant cheese began in 1997, encouraging dairy producers to restart their production of this old type of cheese. Twelve producers of Mohant from Bohinj participated in the preparation of the Mohant cheese study and the rules for its protection. Following the awarding of prizes at agricultural fairs and the rising interest of buyers and tourists in this cheese, the number of producers is on the increase. Farmers, societies and the municipality of Bohinj are aware of the major role of Mohant cheese in the economic life, regional development and local identity of the Bohinj population, and safeguarding awareness appears to be growing accordingly. The municipality of Bohinj financially supports various activities of the Bohinj Cheesemaking Society (Sirarsko društvo Bohinj) and farmers-producers of Mohant cheese who sell it on their farms and on the market in Bohinjska Bistrica. The municipality of Bohinj also reimburses Mohant producers all the costs associated with obtaining a certificate for its controlled cultivation. Preservation of this cheesemaking heritage and the transmission of knowledge crucial for the production of Mohant cheese are both coordinated by the Bohinj Cheesemaking Society.
In 2000, farmers from Bohinj founded the Bohinj Cheesemaking Society, which unites 30 members: milk producers, cooperative members, cheesemakers and cattle breeders who continue the centuries-old tradition of cheese production in Bohinj. In 2004, the Rules on the Designation of the Geographical Origin of Mohant were adopted. The Bohinj Cheesemaking Society then took steps to provide Mohant cheese with the European Union Protected Designation of Origin – PDO. The society was successful in its efforts, and in November 2013, Mohant cheese was officially recognized by the EU with a protected designation of origin – PDO mark.
Mohant cheese was in 2013 also entered into the Slovene Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Available on the register's website, the article dealing with this particular dairy specialty also features photographs depicting its making, as well as an ethnological documentary film.
Related Intangible Heritage
To learn more
Sirarstvo - Mohant
Zadružna zveza 1926
Narodopisje Slovencev 1 - Ljudska hrana
Siri nekdaj in zdaj
ČZD Kmečki glas 1995
Slovenski zaščiteni kmetijski pridelki in živila
Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo, gozdrastvo in prehrano 2010
Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts - Institute of Slovenian Ethnology - Miha Peče
Maja Godina Golija, PhD
13-FEB-2018 (Miha Peče )
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