Bucegi Mountains Branza de Burduf

Milk and milk products - 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 former having a thick fleece traditionally used 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), cașcaval and caș. The latter is the basis for Brânzá de Burduf, the most valuable among Romanian cheeses. To make caș, calf or lamb rennet is added to fresh milk, which is left to curdle after being heated to 40°C. 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. Caș can be eaten fresh or, after being ground and salted, can be left to mature in sheep’s skin or bladder. To make some rare varieties, the cheese is aged inside coaj de brad (fir tree bark) and is called Brânzá de Burduf. Brânzá de Burduf is produced from May to July, when the trees are rich in aromatic resin. The bark (with most of the wood removed) is softened in hot whey and then sewn together to produce cylindrical containers that are 20-25 cm high and 10 cm wide. The cylinders are sealed with bark discs at the edges. Brânzá 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.