Cheeses and Dairy Products - Romania
The name brânza în saramură describes the preservation method of this cheese, stored in a saltwater brine. In the old times it was kept in pinewood barrels, but today the large plastic or glass jars or enameled vessels are used for storage.
The cheese is prepared directly from just-milked sheep's milk before it cools down. Natural rennet (from lamb's stomach) from previous cheesemaking is used. The rennet is added to the milk and left in a wooden barrel to curdle. The mixture is left to rest for "however long as the shepherds eat" (about 25 - 30 minutes). After this time, the curds are broken with a special tool called a bârghidău, then very gently gathered together in order to separate the curds from the whey. Then the curds are put in a muslin cloth and the fresh cheese is hung to drain any additional whey. After about 24 hours the cheese is sliced, left to slightly air dry, and then the slices are put in a tight vessel very and covered in saltwater brine. The cheese is then left in brine to mature until it is ready to consume during the next winter.
Long ago, the cheese was kept in barrels made out of pinewood that gave a strong but plesant resin flavor to the product. However, the difficulties in cleaning and keeping the barrels brought about a change in the use of materials for storage. The wooden barrels were replaced by the glass jars or plastic vessels. Brânza în saramură risks being lost for many reasons, including the loss of the traditional production methods like the use of lamb's stomach rennet. The lack of and uneven distribution of lamb slaughterhouses in the area limits the rennet supply, as previously shepherds were allowed to slaughter the lambs themselves in the field. In addition, younger generations are moving away from pastoral work which is seen as less appealing.