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Heavily brined cheeses, such as feta, akkawi, haloumi, and sirene are popular throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

It is difficult, however, to find good information on where the practice of submerging cheese in brine originated. It seems to have been present as early as 5000BCE in both Cyprus and the Middle East (according to the Dairy Encyclopedia). Unfortunately, each nationality in the region claims the invention of brined cheese for themselves.

Are there any evidence-based archeological theories about where the practice of brining cheese actually originated? Was it a single place or an innovation that was repeated in multiple places? Or is this one of those things that's so far back in food history that we'll never know?

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  • The Wikipedia page on Feta Cheese's history section has a bunch of references to sources for feta-like brined cheeses.
    – Esther
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:13
  • Yeah, I poked through those. The ones that were available online only discussed the origin of feta cheese in Greece, therefore excluding possible earlier origin elsewhere. Since the Dairy Encyclopedia claims a much earlier origin (5000BCE), I was wondering where that origin was (they don't say, or give a source).
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:16
  • I doubt you’ll find anything conclusive. Salted yogurt will have predated salted “cheese”, and there’s just no archeological way to know which one you’re looking at.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:53
  • @Sneftel that is a possible answer.
    – FuzzyChef
    Aug 31, 2022 at 21:59
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    Cheesemaking predates written history and the archeological record is not clear of its origin. It's unlikely there's conclusive evidence. One thing is for sure is that the cultures that existed back then bear no resemblance to now, so nations claiming to be the originator is IMO slightly silly.
    – GdD
    Sep 1, 2022 at 8:45

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Archaeologists have evidence of salt used as a preservative for at least 8000 years, and in locations around the world with widely varying temperatures and humidity. The ubiquity of salt, simplicity of the chemical process, and necessity of preserving food have lead to the same techniques (e.g. dry salting, salt and smoke, seaside surf hanging, brining) being discovered in parallel by numerous cultures.

There is no reason to believe a single common origin exists for brined cheese or that one must exist.

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