Gbejniet (Maltese Cheese)

 

Gbejna
Gbejna

I didn’t know I missed gbejniet until my dear friend Mary shared some with me a few years ago.

Mary was the first Maltese person I met when we first moved to the Bay Area.  In 1996, the internet was still in the early stages and there was hardly any information or even links to Malta.  The only source of interest at the time was a “chat room” for Maltese people.

Feeling very homesick, I left a message in this chat room to see if there were any other Maltese people in the area. A few days later I found a message from Mary and the best thing was that she lived only about half hour away from me.  We soon realised that her husband Tom used to play soccer with my uncle Guz when they were kids!! That’s how small Malta is.

I’ve known Mary now over 15 years and we chat and visit regularly!  We share recipes and I love going over her house to to catch up and visit her lovely garden which is like stepping into a Maltese Giardina with caper bushes and prickly pears. I think the only thing that’s missing is a Bambinella Tree…I’m still hoping!

Cheese Baskets (Qwieleb)
Cheese Baskets (Qwieleb)

So this is a recipe she so graciously shared with me.  I’ve tried to tweak it a few times.  I tried adding yoghurt and once I tried adding cream.  I’ve made it with whole milk and with goats milk.  Sheep’s milk would be ideal…but I gave up  trying to find some to buy a long time ago.

You do need these cute little gbejniet baskets called Qwieleb.  I believe there are a few online websites who carry them.  They’re 3 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches in height.

It is very important that you do NOT use ultra pasteurised milk or homogenised milk when you are making gbejniet. Ultra-pasteurization heats the milk to 280 degrees, effectively killing any micro-organisms in the milk. You want these microbes in the milk in order for the cheese to curdle properly and for the final cheese product to actually have flavor. 

Goat Milk
2 litres of Goat’s Milk

This recipe will yield about 8 Gbejniet.

Ingredients

  • 2 litres of Goat’s Milk
  • 1 cup low fat milk powder
  • 2 Rennet Junkets
  • 2 tbsp water
  • salt

Directions

First you need to sterilise all equipment.

Heat the milk with the milk powder in a non reactive pot on low and stir until the milk powder is dissolved.

Stir the Mixture
Stir briefly

Add 2 tblsp of water to the rennets and stir until dissolved and set aside.

When the milk temperature reaches 98 degrees, take it off the heat.

Add the rennet tablet mixture to the milk and stir briefly.

Cover and let set at room temperature for about 3 hours.

In the meantime, prepare a draining container with the baskets on top.

Ladle the curd into the baskets and let drain overnight.

Ladle curds into baskets
Ladle curds into baskets

(You can pour the collected whey in a glass container and  store in the refrigerator. You can use this instead of the water for the ftira and maltese bread.)

Next morning, flip the cheese and put them  back in the baskets and let them continue to drain overnight.

Flip the cheese
Flip the cheese

Cover with a net.

Cover with net
Cover with net

Next morning, making sure that they’re strong enough to handle, take them out of the baskets and sprinkle about 1/4 tsp salt all over and around each gbejna and let drip for a few hours more.  Make sure to always keep them covered in case of bugs.

 If you like them dried and peppered…you can do this at this stage.  Grind some pepper in the plate and pat each gbejna into the pepper and cover all over and let them dry for another day (always depending on how hot and dry the day is…please use your judgement).

I don’t like a lot of pepper, so I let them air dry without the pepper.  That’s the good thing about a recipe…you can adjust and substitute to your liking.

Here they are drying before being soaked into the vinegar.

Air dry
Air dry

Here they’ve been dried for a couple of days indoors.

After 2 days of drying
After 2 days of drying

I then fill a bowl with pickle vinegar and let them soak for 2-3 hours. You can use a vinegar of your choice.

Soak in vinegar
Soak in vinegar

Store them in a sterilised jar.  I add about 2 tbsp of vinegar and olive oil and a bit more pepper.  Some people cover them in vinegar.

Store in sterilized jar
Store in sterilized jar

 

I like to store them in the fridge and give them a good shake every now and again.

The great thing about gbejniet is that they are tasty at any stage.  They are delicious fresh after you flip them.  They go well with toasted bread and butter or in Soppa ta’ l-Armla (Widow’s Soup).  Personally I like them after they’d been dried and soaked in vinegar.  Love them on my ftira with tomato paste and olive oil!

Happy Cheese Making!

Sprinkled with pepper
Sprinkled with pepper
Ready to enjoy!
Ready to enjoy!

105 thoughts on “Gbejniet (Maltese Cheese)”

  1. OMG you did it, with all the beautiful pictures and how awesome it looks!!! That is great and awesome post and thanks to your I loved making these cheese and love those molds too. They are all too beautiful to eat! You are an amazing cook.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Do you have a website that I can put a link to it? I know a lot of people who want to purchase qwieleb. Where are you situated in Malta? Thank you for the info…

      1. Our website in still under construction. Our shop is Colonial Store, 303, St. Paul Street, Valletta

        Thanks

        1. I am new to making Gjejniet . Do you feel that the liquid rennet is better than the tablets. my last batch didn’t come out that well because here in Michigan it’s winter so drying them out is hard to do in 29 degree weather. Do you have any suggestions

          Greatly appreciate your input.

          Thank you
          Inez

          1. I use tablets because I can find them in my local store. I have friends who use liquid rennet and they have great results too. I am not sure what the equivalent amount is though. I live in a very mild climate so I can make gbejniet any time of the year. But I do find it takes longer to dry them in the winter as well, so I usually just eat them fresh.

      2. When making the gbejniet, the milk is heated to 98degrees, is this Fahrenheit or Celsius

        How critical is the milk powder

        1. I use it as it makes the gbejniet more solid. I know some people have tried the recipe and not use the powdered milk with good results. I just don’t like risking it.

    2. Hello, Mr. Vell

      This is Pam Trynovich from Wellsboro PA (USA). I came aross Tal-Forn website is how
      I found you. First would like to say I love your store it is very nice.
      I seen on Georgina website some cheese moulds baskets. You said you sell them.
      I would like to buy some from you. How much are they ? I would like to get 50 of the small ones.
      I thank you for your time and hope to hear back from you soon.

      Thank You
      Pam

      1. Hi Pam,
        Actually I do not own a store and am just a stay at home mum from Malta living in the States and missing Maltese food very much:) But even though I do not sell these cheese baskets, I know where you can get some in Malta.

        Simon Vella

        303,St.Paul’s Street, VLT1213 Valletta, Malta

        Contact Info
        Phone 79300782/79215965
        Email sales@colonial-store.com
        Website http://www.colonial-store.com

        I hope you find this helpful. And thank you for liking my blog 🙂 Good luck

        1. Hello! Georgina, I wanted to thank you for your help. Mr.Vell did get in contact with me.
          He told me how much the baskets are. I am not sure how to pay for them.
          He may be having a hard time understanding me. I think. I REALLY LOVE your website.
          I am looking for someone to do my website over. May I ask what state are you in ?
          Thank You
          Pam

          1. Pam, I live in the Bay Area in California…but I don’t know why you want to do over your website…I love it!! It’s so pretty and I love your photos on there. My husband set this up for me and I’d like to do it over too tell you the truth…but I’m kinda tech useless:( Thank you so much for liking my site…

    3. HELLO I AM LOOKING FOR THESE BASKETS, I LIVE IN TORONTO CANADA, AND WONDERING WHERE I CAN BUY THEM, MAYBE YOU MAY KNOW WHERE I CAN GET

      1. Try the BULK BARN or look for foods that are wrapped and packaged in something similar to the baskets. I make my own cream cheese called Lebaneh in a small material pillowcase shape once it drained I turn it into the yogurt containers or jar it in oil.
        What about the garlic net pack that they sell at all the stores in toronto. It has holes and you can put it on a grill tray to drain.
        Hope this helps. I’m maltese too and live in Oshawa, Ontario.

    4. Hello simon, I am trying to get these little baskets for Maltese cheese I am I. Australia. Do you have an email address and will you ship them out to Australia. I only have a few reed baskets from my grandmother but I’m desperate to get some plastic ones. I have been looking on line for ages but can’t find them.
      Regards Rosalie

  2. Wow I love your website it took me back to my childhood all the delicious foods especially the gbejniet. My mother used to make them and she had those little baskets and she always said I can have them when she passed away. I did not end up getting them when she passed away in 2001 and I have been on the look out ever since for some. I live in Australia, I have never seen them here. If you wouldn’t mind letting me know where I can get some I would appreciate it very much because I would love to make these. Today is a very happy day for me because I just happened on you site while I was surfing. You have done such a great job with you site. I haven’t been able to check out all the things on here yet but will do in the next few days.
    Thanking you so much

    1. Oh wow, Emanuela…if I made you happy, you just made my day with your wonderful comment! For some reason, word press did not alert me that I had a message so I was extra happy to find your lovely message here. I’m so glad these recipes have brought back so many memories for you.

      I still have family in Malta, so that is how I got my baskets sent. A Simon Vella also happened to come across my website and he said that they sell baskets at his store but I’m not clear if he ships anywhere in the world, or if he stays local.

      This is where his store is located and his phone number…Colonial Store, 303, St. Paul Street, Valletta…79300782…here is the link to the store on fb…https://www.facebook.com/ColonialStore

      Otherwise I don’t know of anybody who ships these from Malta. If you get in touch with Simon and are successful in getting some cheese baskets sent over, it would be great if you can let me know, cause I would like to be able to spread the word where to get them as I do get questioned about these every so often.

      Thank you so much for encouraging me on my website. I hope you get to try some of these recipes and are happy with the results. I am a Maltese at heart even though I’ve been away from the Island 20 yrs!! Times just flies!

  3. Thank you so much! Your website is wonderful. After 32 years that I have lived here I still get a wonderful feeling when I reminisce the taste of all your items. Time for a visit!

  4. Could you please give me the name of a website where I can buy the small baskets (qwieleb)
    I think that’s how it’s spelt.
    Thanking you
    Regards Terri

  5. Hello Georgina,
    I have come across your name on the I Love Maltese Food forum and now here. I was searching for an address in Australia where to buy qwieleb. Apparently there is a company in Brisbane who sell the plastic ones.

    Before I start making my cheeses, I would appreciate hearing what you use for sterilising your gbejniet making equipment?
    Cheers Yvonne

    1. Hi Yvonne…I’m glad that you found the cheese baskets near where you live…I am sure you will love making these gbejniet…they’re and easy process and will bring you a taste of home. I got this from a cheesemaking website…and I thought it best that you follow the professional way…

      SANITIZING

      1. How do I sanitize my equipment?

      When making cheese, we are using specific bacterial cultures to ripen our milk. We want to avoid contamination of this milk by unwanted bacteria so that the good bacteria we have chosen can do its job.

      Surface areas – We recommend using a food grade sanitizer. Before you begin to make cheese, wipe down your counters with this solution.

      Utensils – Sterilize your utensils in boiling water for 10 minutes (or run them through the dishwasher on the hottest cycle).

      Pots & pans – The residue on your pots is called milk stone, which builds up over time. The best way to find a cleaner for this is to do a search for milk stone remover online. Also, if you have an agricultural store nearby, ask them for an acid based detergent for dairy use. Normally, alkaline based dairy cleaners are used to remove fat and proteins but the calcium deposits of milk stone need an acid cleaner. Most dairies use the alkaline cleaner every day and the acid cleaner once a week.

      Cheesecloth – Before first using, it is best to hand wash your cheesecloth in cold water with a neutral detergent to get out all the sizing and process debris. Always rinse your cheesecloth or butter muslin in cold water immediately after removing your curds/cheese. This will prevent the milk proteins from bonding to your cloth. After you have rinsed in cold water, you may proceed to hand or machine wash your cloth in warm/hot water with a neutral detergent.

    2. All I use is very hot water and reg detergent and make sure that they are properly rinsed and dried. Don’t put the plastic molds in the dishwasher, they don’t like it 🙂 Hope this helps.

  6. Hi
    I have left the milk for three hours. Is it supposed to be like milk or should it be going a little hard.
    Also do I store in the fridge overnight?
    Please help
    Thank you
    Mary-Anne

    1. After putting in the rennet and leaving it for three hours, it should have hardened. If it didn’t, then check to see what type of milk you are using. It should not be Ultra Pasteurised as that will not let the milk coagulate. It’s best to use non homogenised milk. It’s best to leave in the fridge overnight, but I have left it out because I don’t always have room. I hope this helps.

          1. Hi there

            I have tried this recipe three times now but to not luck.
            I have used unhomogenised and unpasturised milk but cannot get it to curdle after leaving it cool at room temperature for three hours.
            I have followed your instructions making sure I sterilise all equipment, I have skim milk powder as per the recipe, I heat to 98 degrees, add two rennet junkets which have been dissolved into the milk and stir and leave cool for three hours.

            Can you please advise if there is anything else I am doing wrong.

            Help

            Many thanks for your time

    1. Thank u lee. Yes I have been doing 98 degrees as advised in the recipe.
      Are you sure lee as I have run the degrees by Georgina a few times and she has never corrected the temperature ?
      Thanks for your feedback

  7. I am going to try this, Georgina. You know, I think I remember going to the Colonial Store with my mother years and years ago.

    I am compiling a shopping list for my brother for his next visit. I am putting the Gbejniet. baskets on the list, and seeds for the courgettes! Possibly a lump of raw dough from a baker! Do you have any other ideas to add to my list? He brings me capers but they are too vinegary for me.

    You might wonder why I just don’t go myself. I live in Tokyo, and Malta is not easily accessible. You have to fly somewhere in Europe or UK and change planes, and I can’t take enough time off work to do all that.

    1. Oh you live in Tokyo!! How cool!! My son wants to come and do a year of college there next year! He is learning Japanese language and Japanese Folklore this year and is loving it.

      So I’ve been thinking and since you remember Colonial Store from years ago, I wanted to let you know that the store is still in Valletta and do ship the gbejniet baskets to you…you just have to email them and you can find them on fb.

      Since Malta joined the EU, they have products from all over Europe…delicious Italian pastries etc…have you ever been to Italy?

      The other thing I’m thinking is that you might need to get the Rennet Pills sent to you as well.

      What else what else??? Twistees?? They are my favourites 🙂

      And wow a lump of dough…how clever!! That’s an awesome idea!

      1. Wow, small world, as they say! Is your son thinking of coming to Tokyo? It is certainly a very interesting place, and he will have a great time! And now you’ve found an emergency auntie (or maybe I should say grandma 🙁

        Do let me know if it all comes off!

        1. Oh I will for sure Elisabeth 🙂 You know, first time he told me, I did not sleep for a week. But of course I am not going to come between him and his dream. He’s been wanting to go since he was in 9th Grade. You will hear from me if it comes through…thank you so much…just knowing this has eased my mind already 🙂

  8. I love ġbejniet and I cannot get them here because I live in the mid north coast nsw and no body sells them so thank you for the reciepe I hope I can make them like that. I was born in Malta and I love the ġbejniet so thank you once again

    1. Hi Vicki…I know how it is when you live far from your homeland and miss certain things. Luckily a lot of our national dishes can be made at home. All the best and let me know if there are any recipes that come to mind that you want to try…I might have them 🙂 All the best to you

    2. Hi Georgina;

      I am making the ftira recipe with some of my own tweaks and I only make it as regular bread loaf. I’m still fiddling with the recipe but I have made three batches so far each one better than the last. I’m very pleased as next to gbejniet Malta bread is my fave, I lived on it when I last visited Malta.

      The gbejniet I make from kefir cheese that I make at home from which I get whey for my bread. I take photos of each batch as one of my friends is baking this bread as well.

      I don’t think we can replicate the Maltese bread exactly since the yeast in the sourdough starter is native to where you live, mine is North Western Ontario not Malta but it’s still good and I’m surprised that it’s pretty close to what I remember.

      By the way why would you need to make cream? I can get cream by the quart here at 35% butterfat and it whips up a dream. I’m sure you can do the same in the US also in England, I used to when I lived in England, was delivered by the milkman. I guess that’s all gone now………pity 🙁

      1. Hi Vicky…sorry for the late reply as I’ve been busy baking away during the holidays.

        You are right about not being to replicate the exact Ftira like the ones made in Malta but glad to hear that you enjoy making it and that it comes close and you’re right, the gbejniet are the best accompaniment to the ftira:)

        I’ve tried making kefir at home but it came out too strong for me and I prefer the kefir from the store. I never thought of making gbejniet with kefir milk. That’s really interesting…I will have to try that one of these days…thank you for the idea

        I don’t need to make cream, it’s just another thing I can make at home…just like yoghurt. If I can make it, then I will (that’s my motto:) Next I want to try making clotted cream as there is nothing like the real thing here where I live. Thank you so much for your message…I enjoy reading all the different ways people make home made goodies.

    1. Hi Margaret, could you tell me the size of those baskets you got? Are they the ‘right size’? There’s nothing on the website about size. My friend Ana is going home to Australia for Christmas and she will bring them back for me if I want them. I am in Tokyo.

      1. Also Elisibath there is a section there where you can ask her a Question about them.
        Her name is Joyce she is really helpful.
        She can post them to you as well.
        Bye

        1. My baskets have arrived all the way from Australia! Thanks so much for telling me about Joyce. Waiting for the rennet tablets!

          1. Oh that is so good! Your very welcome have fun making them I know I did. I’m still eating them love em….

    2. Hi Margaret, hope your well.. just wanting to know as I live in australia aswell but in sydney, was wondering if the website link is still available, I just clicked on it and it says error! Im after getting some moulds also to try making the cheese and cant wait to give to my grandfather to try ( he is from malta).

        1. Hi Yvonne,
          Perfect thankyou so much iv received mine and now to make them 🙂 oh ok I didnt get a recipe but its ok 🙂 il try this one from Georgina

          1. Hi Renee,
            I’m so glad that you got your gbejniet forms from Joyce. She must have forgotten to include the recipe or maybe she sent me one because I asked. I don’t remember. Sadly, I’ve only used the forms one time. I must have another go soon. I feel so spoiled living in the west of Melbourne where anything Maltese is pretty much available within a short distance.

        1. According to Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia’s book, the Food and Cookery of Malta, they say
          For gbejniet tal-bzar
          Put the dried gbejniet in an earthenware jar and sprinkle them very liberally with sea-salt and pepper. Pour over sufficient olive oil, and a little vinegar to cover them. Cover the jar until ready to eat. Use the vinegar sparingly. You do not want to produce a strong vinegary taste.

          1. Oh thank you Elisibath that’s great. I can’t believe I can make these gbejniet tal-bzar my self woohoo thanks to you..
            I was born in Aussie land (Australia) I love our food and have only tasted a limited amount of for. I come from a family of 10 and my mum was 21.
            She didn’t have time or the money to make these things.
            I just wish she was alive to show her I can make these beautiful gbejniet.

          1. I have not tried freezing them. BUT, in Malta they vacuum seal them and put them in the fridge and I think that is a great way to make sure they keep well if you have that gadget. Otherwise, I now make small quantities…like 4-6 gbejniet at a time.

  9. Can somebody tell me where I can buy rennet in powder or liquid form? I have tried a couple of pharmacies but have been told that rennet is no longer being imported which I find hard to believe.

  10. hello Georgina, i finally got the nerve to try making the gbejniet. i used 3.8% Goat milk 1 litre carton, & 3tsp of Renin as a test. I managed to get 3 small cheeslets about 1″ high and just tried one and they seem to be good – my husband liked it and we’re still alive hahahaaa – as i was worried about food poisoning or the Renin to be too strong that it would have made us sick – BUT ya! we’re still here.
    Quick question, when the milk warmed up it started parting right away. I don’t have a termometer, so would you say 5mins will be enough time to make the milk warm??? I want to try them again.

    1. So sorry it took me this long to reply to you. I was visiting my family in Malta and did not have my laptop with me. But I see you managed very well… Good job Margaret 🙂

  11. Okay I got it right this time with the Gbejniet! I am guessing because our Milk is not as fresh as the Maltese one we get to lose alot of the substance of the pure milk. So I tried it again and I only left the Milk warm enough to slip my little finger in it and not burn it. The texture came out better, and i manage to get 6 pieces. They are small but good and tasty. I let them dry too and place them in a jar with olive oil and a little vinegar.
    Thank you for the recipe hope I can return the favour with some of my recipes listed on my website – http://dinepixtravel@wordpress.com

    1. I’m so happy you found out a way to make it work for you Margaret. I just came back from Malta last night and I am itching to make a batch of gbejniet now. Thank you for leaving us a link to your recipes…I am going to check it out now.

  12. So excited to finally find some of my heritage recepies!
    I live in sub tropical climates would you suggest refrigerating the cheese while it dries or simply covered with netting should be ok?

    1. I usually let it drip for the first 2-3 days in the fridge and then let it dry au natural outside for another couple of days when it’s warm under the netting. And then store in vinegar and oil in jar in the fridge. I think in Malta they leave them at room temperature but I don’t like taking that risk. Good luck and I hope they turn out well for you.

  13. I am just in the process of making my first lot of Gbejneit & I am wondering how long they keep in the refrigerator. I’m thinking of storing them in sterilised jars with a little oil & vinegar as suggested in the recipe. However I see that someone said to cover them with oil & vinegar. Please help !

    1. Hi Margaret

      So sterilising the jars well is key. From experience, if you cover with vinegar, they should keep a long time (don’t want to say indefinitely because we eat them very quickly in my house). Sometimes bacteria does creep in and unfortunately, I have had that happen and had to throw away a batch after a couple of weeks. My rule of thumb is that I let them dry until they are not sticky anymore. So make sure you flip them so they get dried properly on all sides. Hope this helps

  14. Would It work if I was to use cows milk? And would it have to be full fat?

    Also if I can’t find the rennet junkets is their anything else I could use thanks

    1. I have used cow’s milk and the best I find is the full fat as it yields plumper gbejniet. You can use liquid rennet and you can find that online. I don’t know where you reside, but Walmart carry rennet as do Albertsons. I hope this helps.

  15. I made Maltes chesse but they didn’t see it with a Randall tablet I put six it’s not enough so can you tell me what am doing wrong

  16. Hi hope you are well
    We are in malta at the moment from Australia
    Do you have any Qwieleb) would like to take some with me if you sell them please pass on the address and your phone number we will call first
    Or you may know someone who sells then

    Thanks
    Tony Farrugia

  17. hi i have done the Gbejniet with normal milk full cream and fresh cream . put rennett in them too but the taste was not the same as the one we use to get in malta.

    1. Georgina is right, the Maltese ones are done with pure sheep or goats milk. If you have a department Food Store look for Goats milk in a Litre Carton. You would need at least 3 cartons to make 8 cheeses. Always check the dates and do it right away. of course they never turn out the way the original recipe but when we are in other parts of the world it’s good to know that we have ways to make them. Everyone’s taste-buds are different so add a little salt, or pepper, maybe olive oil or balsamic vinegar when you are eating them. Hope this helped.

      1. You are so right Margaret…everything is different from country to country so the best we can do is try to get as close as possible. Same with the ftira…it’s not exact, but I’m happy to just enjoy the memories 🙂 Thank you for your input…

  18. I cant believe i have stumbled upon this website. I was looking for traditional reed baskets to make maltese cheese and found the recipe as well. I have been making it for years from what my mother has told me and from what i could remember my grandmother doing on the farm. What i have been doing is spot on, just wasnt sure when pepper could be added. I am still using my grandmother’s reed baskets but would love more or the plastic ones pictured. Thank you for the information i am so thrilled to have found you on line.
    Regards rose

    1. Thank you Georgina. These look like they turned out OK. I’m making kusksu tonight to go with them. It’s spring in Melbourne so broad beans can be found at the greengrocers. Stupid question: draining/dripping is done in the fridge no? I’d say they would go bad at room temperature.

  19. Thank you for the recipe, I am making them all the time now, I have even added lemon zest to them before drying and everyone loved them they went so well with biscuits and my home made plum paste

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