Kaymak is a unique dairy product with a specific way of production, taste, aroma and texture, so as such it belongs to delicatessen and exclusive dairy products. It is a traditional dairy product that is obtained by removing the fat layer or crust from the surface of boiled and cooled milk, after the milk has stood in a shallow container (wooden vessel) for 1 to 4 days. According to its sensory properties, kaymak is between cheese and butter. During ripening, the aroma of kaymak changes from an aroma that is similar to butter to the aroma of semi-hard/hard cheese, while the changes in consistency (structure) range from cheese to butter.
In Serbia, the production and consumption of kaymak has a very long tradition, so this product is considered a domestic indigenous product and is one of the symbols of our gastronomy. It is most often produced from cow’s milk and is used for direct consumption. It is consumed as a side dish in cold appetizers, and then in grilled dishes and other main dishes.
In addition to Serbia, kaymak is also produced in other Balkan countries (Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Croatia), but it is known by another name. The production of kaymak and similar products is also present in the countries of Southeast Europe, Asia Minor and the Middle East. There is a product similar to our fresh kaymak in England called “Devonshire cream”.
It is assumed that the production of kaymak started in Asia (the Iranian plateau and the central part of Asia). Nomadic cattle breeders who came from northern Europe and the southern part of Asia brought with them the technology of kaymak production to the Balkan Peninsula.
Today, kaymak is mainly produced in rural households and small dairies in the traditional way. Small farms produce kaymak and lean cheese (from milk after removing the kaymak) for their own needs, and bring the surplus to the market.
In our region, kaymak is most often produced from cow’s milk, and it is also the highest quality kaymak and is used for direct consumption. Kaymak made from sheep’s milk is often further processed into butterfat.
Depending on whether the kaymak is consumed immediately after removal or stands for a while and “ripens”, there is a difference between “fresh” kaymak with a shelf-life of 1 to 2 weeks and “matured” kaymak with a shelf-life of 1 to 6 months.
The chemical composition of kaymak varies a lot depending on the composition of the raw material and the method of preparation. In addition to milk fat, which is the main ingredient in kaymak, it also contains significant amounts of protein, minerals (especially salts), lactic acid and lactose. When milk of good standard quality is used and when the production process is properly performed in good hygienic conditions, kaymak of good quality and standard composition is obtained.
The Rulebook on the quality of dairy products and starter cultures (Official Gazette of RS, 33/2010, 69/2010, 43/2013 – other rulebook and 34/2014) provides a definition of kaymak and defines the basic parameters that kaymak must meet.
Fresh kaymak or clotted cream is a product obtained as a fat layer or crust, which is separated from heat-treated and cooled milk (cow’s, sheep’s and buffalo’s milk or a mixture), where the following quality requirements must be met:
- to be white to light yellow in colour;
- to have a characteristic pleasant aroma and mild taste;
- to contain not less than 65% of milk fat in dry matter;
- to contain not less than 60% of dry matter;
- to contain not more than 2% of table salt;
- that the pH is not less than 4.8;
- that it is a layered structure with pieces of soft undrained matter.
The taste and aroma of fresh kaymak is mild, typically milky, reminiscent of boiled milk and cream, it tastes more like butter than cheese.
Fresh kaymak has a filo-like, layered structure with parts of undrained crust. The structure of fresh kaymak is similar to the structure of some fresh cottage cheese, but it is softer and more easily spread. The colour of the fresh kaymak is extremely light (ivory to pale yellow), which depends on the type of milk from which it is produced.
The shelf-life of fresh kaymak is up to 50 days, which depends on the storage conditions and the type of packaging.
Ripen kaymak or clotted cream is a product obtained as a fatty layer or crust, which is separated from heat-treated and cooled milk (cow’s, sheep’s and buffalo’s milk or their milk mixture), where the following quality requirements must be met:
- that it is light yellow to yellow in colour;
- to have a pronounced characteristic aroma and taste of matured kaymak or clotted cream;
- to contain not less than 75% of milk fat in dry matter;
- to contain not less than 65% of dry matter;
- to contain no more than 3.5% of table salt;
- that the pH is not less than 3.8;
- that the structure is granular or layered and that it spreads well.
Ripen kaymak has a pronounced and specific taste and aroma. During the ripening process, lipolytic changes occur, which lead to the formation of a large number of volatile compounds, which contribute to the formation of a sharp and very intense taste and aroma of ripen kaymak. The aroma of matripenured kaymak is reminiscent of some ripen hard cheese with a long ripening period. In addition to lipolytic, there are also proteolytic changes that also contribute to the formation of specific sensory characteristics.
Ripen kaymak has a typical granular structure and has a higher spread-capacity compared to fresh kaymak. The granular structure of ripen kaymak is the result of complex changes that occur during ripening that bring to disruption of the continuity of the protein phase, with the fat phase taking over the dominant basis of the structure. The structure of ripen kaymak is more similar to the structure of butter.
The shelf-life depends on the ripening process and if done correctly can be up to six months.
The production of kaymak is based on the surface activity of boiled milk, on the surface of which an initial crust is formed after heating and pouring the milk into open shallow containers.
After boiling the milk, a “crust” is formed on the surface of the milk. The process of formation of the “crust” on the surface of milk is closely related to the physical properties of certain components of milk, especially fats and proteins. When boiling the milk, there is a partial denaturation of milk proteins and a concentration of hardened proteins around which other milk ingredients, primarily milk fat, begin to accumulate. Milk fat globules tend to cluster. Larger globules of milk fat are the first to overcome the viscosity of milk and move towards the surface. On their way, they catch up with smaller globules, and they group into agglomerates and separate on the surface of milk. Milk fat, as the lightest ingredient in milk, tends to stand out on the surface of milk. Fat globules have a membrane to which proteins are bound, and they also contain clotted proteins, so that a product is obtained which is a mixture of fat and protein (smaller share).
The speed of kaymak separation depends on various factors, and the most important are: milk temperature, humidity and air temperature, as well as the temperature difference between milk and air.
The amount of separated kaymak that is formed is proportional to the milk fat and the surface of the milk spill, and inversely proportional to the height of the spilled milk layer, the rate of the temperature drop, and the heat conductivity of the vessel in which the kaymak layer is separated.
There are the following steps in the process of kaymak making:
- Milk selection – whole, non-homogenized milk is used. Cow’s milk is most often used.
- Pasteurization – milk boiling. Kaymak is produced exclusively from boiled milk, which boils for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Pouring boiled milk – after boiling, milk is poured into shallow containers, once wooden vessels, and today enamelled dishes or stainless-steel containers. The milk stays in the containers until the kaymak is removed. In some households, milk is boiled and left to form kaymak in the same containers – shallow pots.
- Kaymak formation – formation of a crust on the surface of milk and separation of milk fat. It is desirable to cool the milk slowly. The milk stays in the container for 1 to 3 days (especially in the winter months).
- Removing the kaymak – At the moment of removing the kaymak, it is desirable that the milk is cold 10-15°C, because then the layer of fat under the crust is removed with the kaymak. If the temperature of the milk at the time of removing the kaymak is over 20°C, the layer of fat does not harden and remains in the milk. Before removing, the knife is passed between the kaymak and the wall of the container, so that the cream can be grasped more easily. The kaymak is removed with a perforated spoon or by hand. After removing the kaymak, it is placed in containers to ripe (if ripen kaymak is produced) or fresh kaymak is stored. In the past, wooden pots were used, and today plastic pots of different shapes and sizes are used.
- Adding salt – Before placing the kaymak on the bottom of the pot, a little salt is added, and salt is also added over each layer of kaymak. The amount of added salt depends on the length of storage of the kaymak. When making ripen kaymak it is necessary to add more salt, because salt not only affects the taste, but also has the role of a preservative.
- Ripening and storage of kaymak – Containers with kaymak during the ripening time are kept in a room with a basement temperature of 10 – 15°C. Ripening lasts 15 to 20 days and kaymak can be stored for a long time (up to 6 months) in the cold. The surface of the ripen kaymak, which is stored longer, is covered with melted butterfat.
Scheme 1. Block scheme of kaymak making
The yield in the production of kaymak is very uneven, because the production process is influenced by a number of factors. The chemical composition and quality of milk have a primary influence, especially the milk fat content and total dry matter. The technological process of work is also important, such as the way and duration of heating and boiling of milk, the kaymak formation process, the temperature of the room in which the kaymak formation process takes place, the speed of fat separation, and the way of removing the crust from the milk.
After removing the kaymak from the total amount of milk, 81 to 90% of skim milk remains. To produce 1 kg of fresh kaymak, it is necessary to use 8 to 15 litres of cow’s milk.
Apart from large differences in yield, there are also large variations in terms of the chemical composition of kaymak, but the values are mostly within the limits prescribed by the regulations.
Kaymak as a specific dairy product is characterized by characteristic sensory properties. The sensory properties of kaymak are often similar to certain properties of cheese or butter, but still very specific.
Colour – depends on the degree of maturity of the product and the chemical composition of milk fat. Fresh kaymak is of a light, whitish colour to the colour of ivory. In relation to butter, the colour is lighter, but it is more intense in relation to the colour of fresh cottage cheese that is completely white. Ripen kaymak, as well as ripen cheese, has a distinct yellow colour.
Aroma – the taste and smell of fresh kaymak are not particularly pronounced. It has a typical mild milky taste, similar to the taste of boiled milk and tastes more like butter than cheese. Intense taste and smell of ripen kaymak is formed during the ripening period. Lipolytic changes produce a large number of volatile compounds that contribute to the formation of a sharp and rather intense aroma. The aroma and taste of ripen kaymak are reminiscent of cheese with a long ripening period. During the ripening period, the aroma of the kaymak changes from butter-like to cheese-like.
Kaymak structure – there are big differences in structure and consistency between fresh and ripen kaymak. Fresh kaymak has a spread consistency and is layered. Ripen kaymak has a recognizable granular structure, which is formed as a consequence of the ripening process, so that the structure of the kaymak during the ripening period reaches the structure of butter.
Traditionally, kaymak was removed and placed in wooden tubs and stored in them. Today there are a number of modern packaging materials and packaging methods.
Appropriate packaging should ensure the preservation of quality, standard weight, hygienic conditions of storage of kaymak.
The packaging process itself, as the last in the process of kaymak production, gives the final look of kaymak, both fresh and ripen. When packing ripen kaymak, care should be taken that there is no air between the layers.
Packaged kaymak is stored at a temperature of +4°C to +8°C. If the kaymak is stored at higher temperatures, there is an increase in acidity.
This method of kaymak making is very simple and is quite common on farms where milk is produced.
Whole fresh milk is gradually heated to boiling (Figure 1). It is important to heat the milk gradually to avoid the smell of “burnt” milk with kaymak. Some households add up to 10% of water to the milk before heating to avoid the smell of “burnt milk”. Gradual heating is also important due to better milk boiling, which affects the better quality of the finished product. The milk is stirred occasionally during heating. It can be boiled in suitable pots and then transferred to pots for kaymak formation or boiled in pots in which the kaymak is then left to separate.
Traditionally, after boiling the milk, the milk was poured into wooden containers, where the kaymak stood out (Figure 2). Kaymak formation containers should have a larger diameter of about 50 cm, and a height of about 12 to 15 cm, with an extended upper surface. This shape of the dish is recommended for better kaymak formation, i.e., separation of fat globules, proteins and other kaymak ingredients. When pouring the milk, the formation of foam should be avoided, because it adversely affects the formation of the crust and the kaymak formation itself.
Figure 1. Traditional method of milk heating on a wood burning stove
Figure 2. Wooden containers for milk pouring and a pot for kaymak storage
After the formation of the initial crust, the process of slow cooling to a temperature of about 15-18°C begins, i.e., in some areas at about 10-15°C for 12-24 hours. In addition to the room temperature, for the good separation of milk fat and the creation of kaymak, the type of material from which the dishes are made is important. Today, enamelled or stainless-steel dishes are mostly used, and less often wooden or plastic ones. Enamelled and stainless-steel dishes make it easier to maintain hygiene, while wooden dishes better maintain the temperature of the milk after kaymak formation. It is undesirable to use plastic utensils, which retain heat poorly and negatively affect the quality (taste and aroma) of the finished product.
The duration of milk cooling significantly affects the thickness of the separated crust. Kaymak formation lasts from 12 hours to 3 days, which mostly depends on the weather conditions and the room temperature. It separates fat and incorporates it into the already formed layer of the protein, forming a thin layer.
In some areas, the kaymak formation takes 24 hours, at a temperature of 4-6°C. The relatively short period of kaymak formation causes a higher content of milk fat to remain in the milk, and such milk is used for the production of semi-fat cheese. Lower temperatures and short kaymak formation time also prevent more intensive development of milk acidity before using it for cheese making.
The amount of kaymak that is formed in a certain period of time is proportional to the content of milk fat in the milk and the surface of the spilled milk, and inversely proportional to the height of the milk layer and the rate of temperature drop.
It is very important to determine the right time to remove the kaymak. If it is removed early, not all the fat from the milk is separated and the yield of kaymak is reduced. If the kaymak is removed late, it happens that the milk turns sour and with the removal of the kaymak, sour milk is picked up as well, which negatively affects the quality of the kaymak. The experience of the person in charge of kaymak production plays an important role in assessing the right time to remove the kaymak.
The formed kaymak is removed from the surface of the milk and placed in a bowl to drain part of the collected milk (1 to 2 hours). This phase lasts a short time, and then the kaymak is layered and salted in appropriate containers. At the bottom of the tub (a wooden container in which the kaymak is placed) there is an opening through which the remaining milk flows out and thus the moisture content in the kaymak is regulated. If it is not drained enough, the stratification is lost and the acidity increases, and the excess moisture negatively affects the quality of the product.
The kaymak is collected every day until the bowl is full. The time of filling the tub is also a very important factor for the quality of the kaymak. The shorter the filling time, the more evenly the kaymak ripens, and the better quality and sensory properties are obtained. In some areas, after the filling is completed, the tub is loaded with a wooden circle and a stone. The whey that pours out stands out on the surface, and the kaymak is stored only under the load. This is done to create anaerobic conditions for ripening.
Fresh kaymak is consumed directly after the production or in the next couple of days (Figure 3).
Ripen kaymak reaches full maturity after ripening from 15 – 20 days to two months at a temperature of 8 – 15°C (Figure 4). Ripen kaymak can be stored for up to a year, if all technological procedures are followed and if it is stored at appropriate lower temperatures.
Figure 3. Fresh kaymak
Figure 4. Ripen kaymak
Kaymak making in small dairies is a combination of traditional and industrial way of production. The kaymak making in small dairies takes place using modern equipment and in improved working conditions. Duplicators are used for milk heating, in which better and more correct heating and cooking of milk is provided, which later has a positive effect on the separation of the crust. Departments for kaymak formation and maturity should be separate, because different conditions must be provided in terms of temperature, humidity …
Raw milk is heated in a duplicator to the boiling point. At the end of heating, the milk can be stirred to prolong the boiling. The duration of milk boiling depends on the amount of milk, the type of dishes and sources, or the energy used in boiling.
Once the milk is boiled, it is poured into appropriate containers for kaymak formation (separating the fatty crust) and transferred to the kaymak chamber. The milk is poured into kaymak containers with a volume of 30 to 40 l, which are arranged in several levels on racks (usually there are 5 levels on the stand) for the kaymak making. The stand is on wheels and thus, after spilling and partial cooling, it is transported to the cooling chamber (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Cooling chamber with kaymak containers on the racks
The process of kaymak making, i.e., separating fat and creating crust, is quite slow. Therefore, it is necessary to cool the spilled milk gradually and to maintain the favourable temperature of the milk and the room in which the kaymak is kept for as long as possible. The most favourable temperature of the room in which the kaymak formation takes place is 15 – 18ºC.
After a couple of hours, it is necessary to gradually lower the temperature, so that immediately before collecting the kaymak, the temperature is 4ºC.
The crust is removed from the milk after the kaymak formation. After removing it, the crust is placed in containers and kept in them for a couple of hours, in order to separate a part of the collected milk. The crust is then layered into larger containers and salted (Figure 6). The amount of salt added usually ranges up to 2%.
The final packaging of the kaymak is done manually, in plastic containers and thus delivered to the market.
Figure 6. Kaymak layered in plastic containers
Figure 7. Kaymak container measuring