In the scanty uninhabited hilly landscape on the island of Skyros the Karabinis brothers’ flock of sheep and goats bleats and baas.
It is 7 o’clock in the morning. We have a meeting with Yiorgos Karabinis. In a convoy we drive up into the desolate mountain landscape of the uninhabited southern part of Skyros island. The majority of the herd of sheep and goats belonging to the brothers Yiorgos, Manolis and Yanis Karabinis are grazing here from spring to late autumn. The Toyota pick-up stops at a road junction in front of a paled gate. Yiorgos motions us to park our car underneath a tree and to get in his car. We continue on a bumpy track for a couple of hundred meters, driving up the steep hill through an olive grove towards the pasture. The chirping of the cicada and the bleating and baaing of the goats and sheep are the only noises far and wide.
A lot of sweat for 10 litres of milk
Arriving on the top Yiorgos points to a little stone house. “This already belonged to our parents. We come from a Skyrian family of shepherds”, he tells us. “Over here” he points to a gate “we’ll round up the sheep for milking in a minute.” When his brother Manolis and his son Dimitris arrive as reinforcement, Yiorgos fills the troughs with water. The herd is used to the daily milking procedure. Calmly the three men round up the flock – sheep and goats are separated. Two men take one animal at a time. While one man holds it in place the other one massages the udder in preparation. Then, the milking process begins. The amount of milk obtained varies from one animal to another. Yiorgos points to the milk bucket: “For today it’s about 10 litres.” The three men sit down to catch their breath and have a cigarette.
Undemanding goats and sheep among thyme and oregano
Trachanás – wheat meal and sheep’s milk for the winter months
Afterwards we return to the village Aspous. Efrosini is already waiting for us at the garden gate. The brothers greet their sister. Yiorgos takes the milk bucket to the outdoor kitchen. Underneath lemon and fig trees the cool shadow of the trees is silently enjoyed with a cup of Greek coffee.
In the meantime Efrosi starts working. She pours the fresh sheep’s milk into a large cooking pot and slowly adds roughly ground wheat grains. While being constantly stirred the porridge is gradually thickening. Finally the solid mass is poured into a cheesecloth in order to wring out the remaining liquid. Efrosini spreads the lumpy semolina on a finely woven wire mesh. Covered with a cloth it’s drying for one or two days in the sun. Trachanás, a rural traditional dish, was originally prepared from surplus of dairy. It is one of the oldest Greek recipes that is still established in Greek cuisine today.
“This way we conserve our milk’s valuable nutrients. Trachanás is a typical winter food”