Wara – The Local Cheese

Wara is a local unripened cheese commonly sold by the Nomadic Fulani of Nigeria. It is made traditionally by coagulating fresh cow milk using the Sodom apple or pawpaw leaves  while heating. There are many other coagulants that are being used these days such as lemon juice and starter culture and chemicals.

The difference between unripened and ripened cheese is that unripened are made by coagulating the milk proteins like how Wara is made and they are consumed fresh. Ripened cheese is made by coagulating the milk proteins using enzymes and culture acids but they are also left to age/mature using bacteria or mold.

Wara is usual sold in polyethylene bags and they are sold in a liquid which is whey (lactose and water) separated from the casein(protein) during coagulation. The Wara is there made up mostly of the casein.

100g of Wara will give you 173.6kcals, 4.7g of protein and 17.2g of fat. (100g was about 4-5 Wara pieces when I measured. Wara is usually sold in threes or sixes). For mineral content, you can get about 6mg of iron, and 1mg of calcium. It has 1mg of sodium and when you compare this to other kinds of cheese like cream or cottage cheese, the sodium content is very low.

A 2011 study by Adetunji and Arigbede on occurrence of some microorganisms and identifications of hazard Analysis Critical Control points in production of a typical tropic cheese Wara and Yorhurt showed that the points where contamination can occur in the production of Wara are many: from reception of raw milk, at the addition of coagulant, at the point of curdling and cheese in moulds. In all the factories assessed in the study, microorganisms like E.coli and Listeria Monocytogenes (which can be resistant to heat)were present throughout the processing line and the produced Wara containing these organisms in higher amount that exceeds standards. Other studies have similar information too. This shows the importance of ensuring safety when consuming ready to eat foods to prevent outbreak of infectious diseases.

It is also important to note that the Wara is highly perishable and does not last more than 2-3 days. However, Wara can be frozen to increase shelf life and even reduce bacterial count according to a 2007 study by Alalade and Adeneye. Some other studies have shown how ginger and garlic extracts put into the Wara can make it last longer under refrigeration.

Wara, when produced with safety as priority, is a nice addition to meals. It can then be a nice addition to the family meal and everyone including infants and toddlers can enjoy it.

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