(MENAFN - Jordan Times) When Ohoud Hijazin, as a child, watched her grandmother make jameed, she did not know that one day, this family tradition would become a source of income for her and her family.
Now 36 years old and a mother of three sons, Hijazin runs a small business out of her home in Karak, producing home-made jameed (dried, salted yoghurt used in making mansaf, Jordan's national dish) just like her foremothers, but with an entrepreneurial twist.
"I watched my grandmother and aunts make jameed and leave it in the sun to dry. Then, they stored it to be used in cooking later. They did not make it to sell, though. I learned how to make it from them and now I am selling it to earn money and support my children," she told The Jordan Times.
The tradition of making jameed has been practised for hundreds of years by Jordanians, particularly in the southern Governorate of Karak, 140 kilometres south of Amman, which is famous for producing some of the best jameed and, if local lore is correct, is where the dairy product originated.
At the age of 30 and after battling unemployment for years, Hijazin decided to use the knowledge passed on to her from generations of women to start her jameed-making project.
"I decided to work from home. I borrowed money from a relative of mine and bought milk for the first time. It is better than waiting for things to change. We need to chase a living," she said.
The risk paid off, and Hijazin was able to repay her relative in jameed and parlay her earnings into resuming her business the next year.
"Since then, I have been selling jameed every year," she said. "I have good customers who renew orders every year and they always recommend my work to friends and relatives, who become my customers as well."
Although she is not formally employed by anyone, Hijazin said her home business is just like any other full-time job.
"I do not think that my experience is different from women who work at a bank, for example. I deal with clients like them. I negotiate prices. I make a budget and calculate expenses and profit, and most importantly I have a work routine," she said.
The season in which jameed is made lasts from March to June every year, during which time Hijazin is constantly busy.
"I start early in the morning and boil goat's milk, which is delivered daily by a farmer. Once the milk cools down, I leave it overnight in the fridge to become yoghurt. The next day, I add some ice and churn it in a washing machine - of course it is only used for this purpose - until the butter is extracted," she said.
"Once the butter is taken out, I leave the yoghurt to drain and add salt later on to make jameed balls, which will be left to dry in the sun," she added.
Using modern technologies such as the fridge and the washing machine makes the task much easier than it was in the past, according to Hijazin.
"In the past, women used to shake yoghurt inside a leather bag to extract butter, but now we can use washing machines instead. This is much easier. My grandmother used to spend a full day working on this. Now, I just switch the machine on and the butter is ready," she said.
But no matter how much she may rely on modern technology for her business, the entrepreneur said she still seeks advice from her elders.
"My aunt, who lives next door, is my adviser. I always go back to her with questions and suggestions. She is a good judge. She checks the quality of my work. I was taught by the elderly women of the family and I cannot neglect their knowledge," she said.
For Hijazin, producing high-quality jameed is crucial not only to satisfy buyers but also to do justice to her grandparents' heritage.
"It is more than pleasing customers for me. Making jameed is a part of my heritage as a Karaki woman and I am responsible for producing the best. There are so many bad-quality products in the market that are labelled as Karaki jameed. Our heritage must be protected," she said.
Hijazin is not the only person in Karak who has turned to making jameed to make a living.
"People make it nowadays to earn money. Jobs are limited here and life is getting harder and harder," said a 45-year-old volunteer at a women's charity in Karak, who did not want to be named.
"I know so many families who started making jameed and selling it to earn an income. But it is uncommon for young women to be making it."
Following the success she has achieved over the past six years, Hijazin plans to expand her project next year.
"I plan to hire two women to work with me. It is one way of teaching young women our heritage and helping them with job opportunities," she said.