Russia: Why monks are making mozzarella

Monk at a cheese factory Image copyright Valaam
Image caption Monk Agapy enjoys his cheese-making course in Italy

Monks at a remote monastery in northern Russia are launching the production of exquisite types of Italian cheese, it is reported.

One of the brethren has already been to Italy for training, and cheese-making equipment has been purchased, says Valaam, one of Russia's most famous monasteries.

Monk Agapy spent a week in Italy, where local masters taught him to make such cheeses as mozzarella, caciotta, morlacco, smoked ricotta and bianca, Valaam says on its Facebook page.

A spokesman for the island monastery told the BBC that it expects production to start in December, using milk from cows at its own farm to make the cheeses. The initial plan is for them to be consumed at the monastery, but eventually Valaam hopes to produce up to 350 kg of cheese a week, at which point they will go on sale at less remote religious communities in Russia.

Valaam plays an important role in Russia's religious life and is believed to be favoured by President Vladimir Putin. Italian cheeses are among the Western food imports that were banned by the Russian government in retaliation for economic sanctions against Moscow - over its actions in Ukraine.

Image copyright Monk Savvaty / Valaam
Image caption Valaam is located on a wooded island 22 km off the shore in Europe's largest lake, Ladoga.
Image copyright Monk Savvaty / Valaam
Image caption The ancient monastery is seen as a beacon of spirituality by many Orthodox believers.

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