Cherished for its unique taste and versatility, kishk is a climat-smart dairy product made from cracked wheat and fermented milk and yogurt. Although it is prepared in cuisines around the world from Iran, Turkey, Mongolia, Transcaucasia and the Levant, it holds a particularly important place in Lebanese food heritage and kitchens.
We spoke with different local producers and food experts to learn more about the agricultural, social, economic and nutritional aspects of kishk.
Undoubtedly one of Lebanon’s delicacies, a product of thousands of years of culinary refinement, “kishk” equals the world’s most renowned dairy products.
The name “Kishk” originates from the Persian word “kashk”, referring to a mix of cracked wheat and cracked Barley.
Characterized as a fermented milk product, “kishk” is made of bulgur – cracked parboiled wheat – mixed with either milk or yogurt.
A common food in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Turkey, “Kishk” season starts in the summer, when milk production is at its best and sun heat at its peak. Cracked wheat is soaked in milk or yogurt for almost a week and fermentation is kept under control by adding small amounts of dairy every few days. After cracked wheat soaks in the dairy products and fermentation reaches the right degree, the pre-final product is an edible dough named “kishk akhdar” or “green kishk”. At this stage, this type of “kishk” can be formed into small balls and conserve them in olive oil for consumption in wintertime.
To get to the final “kishk” product, the dough is spread onto clean white sheets, on village rooftops, for the heat of the summer to dry it rock hard. Once totally dry, tradition calls for women to come together for a wonderful communal work: rubbing off dried “kishk” with the hands to obtain a fine, off-white powder, winter’s most nutritious preserve.
Not all “Kishk” varieties taste the same: producers, kishk peculiarities and specialty dishes
Though all “kishk” in Lebanon is powdery in texture, the taste varies widely depending on the type of ingredients used in “kishk” making. It can be made out of cow, goat or sheep milk or yogurt or an alternation between milk and yogurt, or yogurt and strained yogurt, better known as “Labneh”. The type of wheat used equally affects the taste and color of “kishk”. Baladi wheat, salamouni wheat and white wheat confer different flavors, texture and color to the final product.
From Aarsal: Halime el Houjeiri and Kishk with vegetables
Aarsal’s mountainous community has a long pastoral history, and goat and goat milk products are highly valued by local people.
Halime Al Houjeiri, president of the Women Coop on Aarsal takes pride in the “kishk” quality the women produce. Her “kishk” is sour in taste, a reflection of the high quality milk produced by goats grazing on wild herbs and highland thistles.
[quote]A taste from Aarsal: Kishk with Khodra[/quote]
“kishk” powder is mixed with cold water to form a soft dough to which chopped tomato, cucumber, radishes, onions, mint and crushed garlic are added, with a generous drizzle of olive oil.
From Kherbet Qanafar: Lina Haddad and “Kishk Akhdar”
Food producer for the longest time, Lina recently established her table d’hôte as part of a “darb El karam”, a growing food tourism network in West Bekaa. Lina’s brothers owns a dairy farm and Lina makes her dairy products at home. One of her bestselling products is Kishk and Green Kishk. In season, visitors of her table d’hôte can enjoy this delicacy and other kishk specialties.
[quote]A taste from Kherbet Qanafar: Kishk Akhdar with Walnuts[/quote]
kishk akhdar is spread in a plate and adorned with chopped walnuts, onions, mint and tomatoes. The tangy taste of Green Kishk combine heavenly with the nuttiness of the walnuts.
From Maasser el Shouf: Elissar Temrez and “Omayshe”
Farmer and food producer, Elissar specializes in items solely cultivated in her land and processed by her and her husband. Her “kishk” is a mixture of cow and goat milk with baladi wheat, softening the strong taste of pure goat “kishk”, a perfect match to the locally known dish “Omaysheh”
[quote]A taste from Maasser el Shouf: Omayshe with grilled onions[/quote]
Omaysheh is a dish widely known in the Shouf area and the regions of Hasbaya and Rashaya. It is simply made of “kishk” and fine bulgur mixed with lukewarm water then combined with olive oil to soften the dough. The dish is eaten along with grilled onions.
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