The village of Kirkop held its first Irkottafest today, harking back to its roots when it consisted of little more than a few farms producing dairy products.

The activity focussed on the traditional methods of making irkotta. A small 'farm' was set up in one of the squares and visitors could see farmers milking the cows and explaining the process of making cheese. Tours were also held to a modern dairy farm.

Various stands sold a variety of dairy-based food products while volunteers in an education stand informed visitors about the nutritional value of dairy products

Officials from the local council explained that herdsmen used to take their herds to graze in the outskirts of the village as far at Hal Far (there were no airport runways at the time).

The production of irkotta was elaborate and usually involved the whole family. Farmers typically used to wake up as early as 2 an, to go to their farms, clean the pens and manually milk the sheep and goats. The milk was collected in churns. By daybreak the milk used to be taken home on a cart. The farmer's wife would by this time have been preparing boiling sea water which would have been brought to the house the previous day from Birzebbuga or Zurrieq.

When the milk was taken home, it used to be be still warm in the small churns. The volume of the boiling sea water to the volume of milk determined the quality of the irkotta. The wife used to stir the cooked milk for about 40 minutes as it thickened and coagulated.

The farmer and his wife that poured the water through a fine sieve into a large bowl. The thickened milk was collected from the sieve and placed into irkotta recipients which varied from ratal - 800 grams - to smaller sizes. The product was then sold in the nearby villages.

Visitors to Kirkop today could also enjoy a meal in the village square, enjoy ghana and Maltese folk dancing.

The streets were decorated with festa banners.


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