Thursday, 27 October 2011

Romanian Cheeses

This post is more for foreigners living in Romania and I hope to be able to explain a little about Romanian cheeses. Sometimes when we live abroad we want to make a specific recipe from back home and, of course, we sometimes have to look at replacing ingredients with suitable alternatives. There are, of course, a lot of foreign cheeses available on the market but often you can get excellent results with local cheeses, with the added advantage that a good local cheese will probably cost no more than an average imported one.

This is probably the most common cheese found in Romania, alongside cascaval. Telemea is generally quite a fresh cheese, moderately soft and crumbly, white in colour, and can be made from the milk of different animals, typically sheep (telemea de oaie) and cows (telemea de vaca), but also goats milk (telemea de capra). It is stored in brine and is an excellent replacement for feta in salads and other recipes. Learn to make your own telemea at home here.

A smooth yellow hard cheese usually made from sheeps or cows milk. Varies in maturity and quality from the plasticky commercial brands to harder vintage varieties. Often comes in a smoked form (afumat). Melts melt, grates easily, and is a fine substitute for chedder.

A very fresh curd cheese using made in the evening and left overnight to curdle and lightly salted. It has a smooth almost 'squeaky' texture. It's often eaten for breakfast with eggs, shredded into salad, or used in pies (it can be sweetened).

Branza proaspata (de vaca)
A fresh cheese which is usually made of cows milk. It is soft, spreadable, and a little sour. It is used in pies or mixed with herbs (parsley, dill) and spread on toast or as a sandwich filling.

Branza de burduf
A traditional Romanian shepherds' cheese produced from sheeps milk. It is matured in some areas in a sheep's stomach but more commonly it is wrapped in tree bark and left to mature. Burduf is often used in mamaliga (polenta) dishes and it has a aromatic, dry but fatty texture that holds its form. I recently found a very tasty goats cheese burduf in the local market, see here.

A soft, moist, fresh cheese made from whey. It is low in fat and an ideal substitute for ricotta.

A geographically-unique cheese, it is mold-ripened in a cave in a location of the same name. I haven't had the chance to taste it yet but when I do I'll get back here and edit this.


Carolyn Blake said...

Nothing finer than Romanian brinza. I have used urda to make cheese cake and it is quite wonderful. We also get a very salty smooth cheese which is spreadable, and extremely white, which they call feta, but it is not like any feta I have had before. And the prize of Romanian dairy products for me is fresh smantana. Nothing like it anywhere. I buy it by the kilo, poured up into a plastic bag. Tanken home and allowed to sit in a covered bowl on the table, it continues to thicken beautifully. Essential with mamaliga. I am going home to Romania in 2 happy!

Romfoody said...

I absolutely love cheese - fresh, soft, hard, smelly, mouldy... Have you ever tried making your own cheese? I imagine where you are you have access to some good raw milk. I found a local recipe for traditional telemea. I've translated it:

"Heat the milk up to about 37-40 degree C, add the rennet (‘cheag’ in Romanian) following the instructions on the packet, but maybe 20-30% more than they say. Cover the pot with a lid and ‘wrap’ it up in a few towels, to keep it hot for longer, from about evening until the morning. In the morning, pour the contents of the pot into a muslin sack, or large muslin cloth which you can tie up by the corners. Form an approximately cylindrical shape with the curds and leave hanging to drain for 2-3 hours. Remove the curd (‘cas’ in Romanian) and cut it carefully into thick slices, each about 8-10cm. Sprinkle salt all over the slices and put them in a pot and leave the overnight. The next day, put the slices into a brine mixture (30g salt for 1 litre water) and ‘pofta buna’. You should get about a kg of cheese from 7-8 litres of milk, according to the quality of the milk."

I haven't tried it yet, but I intend to in the near future when I can get my hands on some fresh milk (the UHT supermarket stuff doesn't really work). I made some hallumi cheese last year - not Romanian but fun to make.

Anonymous said...

Ever tried liptauer? You can only find it in the western part of Romania (Arad, Timisoara). Initially, it used to be made by the germans - sasi - living in this part of the country but now Romanian villagers are making it too. Absolutely beautiful with spring onions, spring radishes, tomatoes or little gerkins. Try it once - you'll never forget it and you'll always miss it!

Romfoody said...

Hi anon,

Is this the one you mean: Liptauer

Anonymous said...

Not really...the Liptauer made in te western Romania is not mixed with any paprika, onions or other things. Is just some old cas or telemea which is grated,and then I don't know what they add more (soda bicarbonate or butter - I don't know) but I know that it is put to ferment in the sun. The end product is a soft, spreadable light yellow fresh cheese which for me is really the sign of spring arriving in Romania. (Sunnier days of spring help it ferment..that's when countryside people start doing it) It's mostly a seasonal cheese and even in the fridge doesn't last long....very fresh with's usually my first taste of spring. If is nice weather and sunny in the west and you have any trips there, go to a market and ask about it....might already started doing it.

Romfoody said...

Aha, sounds good. I'll definitely keep an eye open for it this spring when I'm in the local cheese market. Thanks!

Carolyn Blake said...

I will be returning to RO in late May. I hope I am not too late for liptauer. I have not had it but I will see if I can find it. I have nt tried to make cheese. The cheese at the farmers' market is so excellent and fresh, that it is much more than satisfactory. I doubt I could improve upon it.

Romfoody said...

Weather should be nice by the time you get back. Believe it or not, it's started snowing again today in Bucharest! Luckily it's not settling.

Of course, it's hard to make cheese as well as an experienced cheesemonger, but it's worth a try anyway - even if the results aren't mindblowing, there's always a kind of satisfaction at having done it yourself.

Carolyn Blake said...

You have a point there about satisfaction...might give it a try. I do make iaurt, especially from lapte de capra if I can get it. I escaped the brutal Romanian winter, though I miss Romania terribly.

Romfoody said...

I would, even if you only do it the once, at least it's something you've said you done - a new experience.

I was thinking of putting up a post with the steps in more detail. I've found a place locally where I can get really raw milk (rather than using stuff from the shops, which at best is pasteurized, at worst, UHT, which is no good for cheesemaking).

Lucia said...

I live in the US and have a Romanian recipe that calls for "branza de vaci". What could I substitute for it? Would a mixture of cream cheese and ricotta do it?

Romfoody said...

Hi Lucia. Branza de vaci is a soft white cows cheese. You could try your combination, see how it comes out, or try making your own. You might even try taking something like feta (if it's not too salty for your recipe) and breaking it up and soften it with a little milk or cream. Guess it depends what you're going to do with it.