Bucegi Mountains Branza de Burduf Romania
In Transylvania, on the slopes of the high Bucegi Mountains in the Carpathians, droving shepherds still make a living as cheesemakers.
At the beginning of summer the herders collect animals from local farmers and herd their flocks to mountain dairies (stâne). Here they process the raw milk and in return for this service, keep part of the cheese and several lambs. The Romanian heritage sheep breeds are Turcana and Tigae, the first having a thick fleece traditionally use to make jackets and rugs. They are hardy breeds, well adapted to mountain pastures which can only be accessed by narrow paths. Transylvanian shepherds use the milk to make Telemea – similar to Greek feta– Urda (ricotta), Cascaval and Cas. The latter is the basis for Brânzá de Burduf, the most valuable among Romanian cheeses.
To make Cas, calf or lamb rennet is added to fresh milk, which is left to curdle after being heated to 40°. The curd is then broken into small pieces. This is left to settle for 45 minutes, after which the curd is wrapped in a cloth. To drain the whey, the cloth is wrung and the curd is pressed under a wooden board with heavy stones placed on top. The paste is then placed inside a wooden container. Cas can be eaten fresh or left maturing in sheep’s skin or bladder after being ground and salted. For the rarest version, the cheese is aged inside coaj de brad (fir tree bark) and is called Branza de Burduf.
Branza de Burduf in fir tree bark is produced from May to July, when the trees are rich in aromatic resin: after the bark is scraped, it is softened in hot whey and then sewed to produce cylindrical containers 20-25 cm high and 10 cm wide, sealed with bark discs at the edges.
Branza can be aged from 20 days to 2-3 months, its flavor becoming increasingly spicy with aging. Fir tree bark imparts a resinous flavor on the cheese and enhances its sensory qualities.
The Presidium aims to defend traditional Branza de Burduf aged in fir tree bark.
This age-old cheese is produced throughout Romania, but the project is centered in the Bucegi mountains in the Southern Carpathians—the most traditional area from a historical point of view—where fir trees provide bark to wrap the cheese.
There are many artisan cheesemakers in the area, but work needs to be done to improve the conditions of the dairies—which do not meet regulatory requirements—and to reduce the lack of consistent quality between the various cheeses. A production protocol will be drafted to recognize the importance of allowing the animals to feed naturally (they graze on the herb-rich pastures near the stâne), define the production phases and aging process, and address hygiene and sanitary issues. At present premises need to be found for processing and aging the cheese, and work will be done to ensure hygiene requirements are met for the first stages of dairy processing (milking, cheesemaking and aging of ca?). Branza de Burduf will later be promoted in Romania and on the international market.
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