Cheese is considered the most complex dairy product. To date, there are about 1,000 denominations of cheeses, each of them is made using milk of various mammals, in particular cows, sheep, buffalo and goats.
Despite the huge number of cheeses and their differences, the manufacturing process has several basic rules and goes through several basic steps:
- control and processing of milk;
- preparation of milk for coagulation and its coagulation;
- processing of coagulum;
- formation and processing of caș (semi-soft white fresh cheese);
- ripening of cheeses;
- storage and packaging.
Using cow's milk there can be made telemea, cottage cheese, urda (whey cheese), sweet caș, as well as several well-known types of cheeses, such as parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, brie, mascarpone, gouda, etc., sheep milk is use in manufacturing of salty brânza, pecorino and năsal cheeses, and goat milk is used for montrachet, feta and several traditional Moldovan cheeses.
Traditional cheeses in Moldova and Romania
Cheese production in Romania and Moldova is an old tradition, given that our Getodac ancestors were mostly herders and sheep breeders. Back in those days, caș was mixed with salt, and stored in clay pots, in sheepskin, and later in wooden vessels. Unfortunately, there are practically no written sources confirming the history of cheese production in this historical region, however, it is known that sheep brânza and other traditional cheeses were mentioned as early as 1374.
In Romania, the variety of traditional cheeses is richer, as many of them have a mountainous or regional character. Such denominations as telemea or brânza de burduf, cașcava or năsal are less known to Moldovan consumers, our traditions are more closely associated with products such as salty sheep brânza, salted and sweet caș or urda.
It all starts with the coagulation of milk
Immediately after milking, the milk is poured into a copper, stainless or plastic food container, after which the rennet is introduced. In rural areas, a good quality rennet can be obtained from a glandular stomach of lambs, sheep or dairy calves. The natural rennet made from the stomach of a lamb is more qualitative in terms of consistency, taste and smell. This operation is carried out in order to remove serum and strengthen the coagulum.
Crumbled coagulum is removed and then poured into a gauze and placed on a strainer. After most of the coagulum has dried, the gauze is left for several hours to form the caș.
Caș can be consumed fresh, but most often it is the basis for the manufacturing of other types of cheeses. There is sweet caș made using cow, goat or sheep milk, as well as salted caș, which is placed in a saturated salted brine for 10-12 hours, after which it is dried and sometimes smoked to extend its shelf life.
Caș can be stored throughout the winter, in salted brine or in the freezer.
This is a product made on the basis of coagulated cheese and can be called whey cheese. It consists of lactalbumin milk, which remains after the coagulation of casein. Urda has a white color, soft texture, it has a sweet taste and the smell of boiled milk. The texture is soft and crumbly. It looks like Italian ricotta cheese, is rich in proteins and has a low fat content. From 10-12 liters of coagulum, one can obtain 1 kg of urda.
Fresh cottage cheese, made using cow milk, is one of the most consumed types of cheese in our country. It has a white, creamy and slightly granular texture and a slightly sour taste. To prepare this type of cheese, cow's milk is left for several days, during which it naturally coagulates, turning into something similar to “yogurt”. After coagulation, the milk is placed in gauze and left for 24-48 hours, most often under pressure.
Salted sheep cheese (brânza) - a product of traditional Moldovan cuisine
It is important to know that sheep's milk has a higher nutritional value than cow's milk and sheep cheese is accordingly more useful and nutritious. Sheep's milk also contains more calcium, and the proteins in this product have an increased biological value, because they contain all the essential amino acids.
Sheep's salted cheese is very easy to prepare: after fermentation, the caș is kneaded with salt and stored. It is a salty, white, slightly sour cheese with a semi-solid and crumbly texture, which is stored in salty brine. To improve the quality, the cheese is ripened for several months. Most often, brânza is made in the sheepfold, using centuries-old recipes and production techniques.
*Sheep cheese is always white, and if it has yellowish marks, it means that it was probably mixed with cow's milk. In this case, its price should be lower.
Traditional Moldovan cheeses do not reach local stores and supermarkets
According to a study made by the web-resource moldnova.eu, brânza manufactured by Moldovan farmers does not reach the supermarkets shelves mainly due to poor hygienic conditions and the lack of high-performance equipment. The unsafe conditions in which the majority of Moldovan shepherds work, as well as the lack of financial resources, have led to the fact that, now, our traditional cheese can be found mainly in agricultural markets or directly at the farmers - shepherds. This is due to the fact that not all owners of sheep farms are legalized: they do not use proper equipment, do not keep production records or have not determined their organizational and legal form. In order for brânza or caș to reach the sores of the capital, the producers must be licensed, have all the necessary documents and modern technologies for processing and storing their cheeses, etc.
Even though the number of sheep farmers is decreasing, they manage to cover all the demand of brânza and other sheep cheese on local market. The Republic of Moldova does not import sheep or goat cheese.