10 Most Popular Romanian Cheeses
Romania’s cheeses are relatively unknown on a global level and its cheese production is relatively small compared to other European powerhouses but that doesn’t mean its traditional cheeses are not super delicious and worth discovering.
Amongst the most popular cheeses in Romania are those from Transylvania, known in Western culture as Dracula’s homeland. Transylvanian cheeses are prepared according to ancient traditions and can easily compete with some of Europe’s most famous specialties.
In fact, most Transylvanian cheeses resemble a lot of them and many are simply better. Here are ten of the most popular cheeses in Romania, not just in Transylvania but around the whole country.
The Romanian Telemea is usually made out of sheep’s milk, but it can also be made out of cow’s milk or even goat’s or buffalo’s. It is the most popular cheese specialty in Romania. It is very similar to the Greek feta, but also to the Turkish teleme and other cheeses from different countries.
It can have a high water content, making its texture creamy and its aftertaste tangy. The cheese is put through an ageing process that makes it crisper, more flavored and salty. For a spicy, nutty flavor, cumin seeds are added. Telemea is usually used as a table cheese for snacks, in salads, and in a variety of dishes, for example pies or omelettes.
Telemea de Ibanesti
There are many different types of Telemea, the most popular ones being “Telemea de Ibănești” and “Telemea de Sibiu”, both products being registered as protected designation of origin by the European Commission.
Ibănești is made from cow’s or sheep’s milk and has a wet and crumbly texture. This kind of Telemea is white to yellowish-white in color and has a sweet, sour, creamy, and salty flavor that gets more intense with time. It needs to stay in a maturation process for a minimum of 20 days.
Telemea de Sibiu
Telemea de Sibiu is a semi-hard cheese, made from fresh, unpasteurized sheep’s milk, using rennet for enzymatic coagulation. It is marketed fresh or matured. The maturation process lasts for a minimum of 21 days.
2. Fresh Cow Cheese or Sweet Cheese
This is a fresh cheese that is usually made from cow’s milk. It is spreadable, really soft, just a little sour, and often used in pies or mixed with different herbs, such as parsley, and spread on toast or used as a sandwich filling. It is usually associated with cottage cheese or pressed cottage cheese.
This is made from sheep’s or cow’s milk and is a smooth, yellow hard cheese. It varies in quality and texture from harder vintage varieties to plastic-like commercial ones and often comes in smoked form. It serves very well as a substitute for cheddar cheese and can be melted and grated easily.
Caş is a type of semi-soft white fresh cheese. It is made by curdling sheep’s or cow’s milk with rennet and draining the whey. The resulting cheese is unsalted or lightly salted. If stored in brine, Caș turns into Telemea after 2–3 weeks.
Caș cheese is also used to make other types of cheese such as Burduf and Caşcaval. It is usually left overnight to curdle, is slightly salty with a smooth, squeaky texture. It can be sweetened and it is often eaten for breakfast with eggs, shredded into salad or baked in different kinds of pies.
This cheese is made from the whey of cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk. Its texture is smooth, grainy, and crumbly. The aromas are fresh and the flavor is mild, sweet, and milky. Similar to its Italian relative Ricotta, this cheese is produced by heating the whey leftovers from making other types of cheese, such as Caş or Telemea.
It results in a low-fat, granulated, soft cheese. It is very rich in minerals and quality protein. Slices of this cheese can be added to a tomato and cucumber salad for a fresh lunch or dinner, or used in cheesecakes or other desserts.
6. Burduf Cheese
This is a salty cheese made of sheep’s milk and has intense flavors and aromas. Burduf, meaning kneaded cheese, is made out of Caș.
The cheese is hand-mixed and placed for 2-3 months in a natural membrane – more precisely a pig’s bladder, cleaned, and sewn together with strips made from sheepskin, which elevates the sharp, yet delicious flavor of the cheese. It has quite a high-calorie count, but is still worth trying.
7. Fermented Sheep’s Cheese
For this type of cheese, the milk processing begins during the first hours of the day. The fresh milk goes into huge metal tanks where it is pasteurized and transformed into fine grains. The cheese is left to salt for 20 hours and is then left to ripen for up to a few months.
A good example is the Horezu cheese, whose factory was bought by Spanish shareholders a few years back.
Romanians are proud to produce this cheese, which is exported to Spain, America and many more places. This type of cheese even competes with cheeses from around the world at the international cheese contest in Germany.
This is a cheese made from cow’s milk which is quite unique thanks to its production method. It is produced in a natural cave in Cluj County, with the help of a bacterium that cannot be moved to another environment.
Its flavor and characteristics are due to the unique microbiological conditions in which it is manufactured. The constant temperature and humidity, but mostly the rock of the cave and the Brevibacterium linens have a huge impact on the taste of the cheese.
9. Cheese in Fir Bark
Cheese in fir tree bark is a special type of cheese. It is prepared by the Romanian shepherds from Bran, Brașov and Sibiu. The cheese is prepared in a similar process to Burduf cheese, but with some small changes, for example, only a spoon made from sycamore wood can be used in the preparation process.
A fir tree bark cylinder is filled with small pieces of cheese and then placed on a sieve and left for one day to drain completely. The cylinders are then smoked for at least two weeks. It is the fir tree bark that gives it its unique flavor.
This is a traditional Carpathian dish belonging to shepherds. This specialty is obtained by cold smoking a low-salt Caș cheese in sweet wood. It is often consumed with fruit as a dessert. The shepherds, though, eat it accompanied with slices of white or red onion and the well-known Romanian ”țuică”.
Feature photo credit: Meaduva;