All About Telemea Cheese (Taste, Types, Substitutes)
Get ready for a cheesy adventure because this article is all about Telemea, a traditional Romanian cheese. From its delicious taste to recommendations for use, to substitutes and its hidden secrets for cheese enthusiasts, we’ve got you covered.
What is Telemea?
Telemea cheese is one of the most popular Romania cheeses, and it has a long history. It’s used in many traditional dishes, but is also enjoyed with a simple slice of bread and some locally grown tomatoes (in the summer) and onions (in the winter). It’s part of the Romanian heritage and a staple Romanian food.
Telemea is similar to Greek feta cheese, but what sets it apart is that the product undergoes wet and dry salting processes. This not only gives it a unique taste but also a longer shelf life.
What’s wet salting? This is when the cheese is soaked in a mixture of water and salt for a period of time. This helps to improve the taste and keep the cheese fresh by removing moisture and preventing bacteria growth.
What’s dry salting? This involves applying salt directly to the surface of the cheese. The salt acts as a natural preservative and helps to develop the characteristic texture and taste of the cheese.
Whether wet or dry salting, telemea absorbs the salt, which adds a savory and slightly salty taste. This makes telemea flavorful and enjoyable to eat, as it enhances the overall taste.
Types of Telemea
Many people associate telemea with feta cheese, but this association can only be made for one type of telemea – and there are many different types, whose taste and texture vary quite substantially.
The differences come from three factors: the maturation process (or lack of it), the type of milk used, and to a lesser degree the salt content. So let’s go over each of them.
1. Matured Telemea vs Fresh Telemea
Depending on whether the telemea cheese undergoes a ripening process, the cheese can be broken down in two categories: ripened telemea (telemea maturata in local language) and fresh tlemea (telemea proaspata in local language).
The two types of telemea are very different: matured telemea resembles feta, having a crumbling texture, being more salty, and having a spicy taste. Matured telemea is great for cooking as it melts nicely at high temperatures.
Fresh telemea, however, is soft, creamy, has a high water content, and can also be found with a low sodium content. It’s great for salads or eaten as is on a slice of bread.
2. Type of Milk Used (Sheep, Cow, Goat, Buffalo, Mix of Two Types)
Telemea can be made with four different types of milk, or a mix of them, and this gives the telemea very different aromas and tastes.
Sheep herding has a very long tradition in Romania so a lot of telemea is made with sheep’s milk. Telemea made with sheep’s milk is usually matured and has a strong aroma and taste. Telemea made with goat’s milk has similar characteristics – it’s usually matured and it has quite a strong aroma and goat’s milk taste.
If you prefer a milder taste and aroma, than you should opt for telemea made with cow’s milk. The taste and aroma is much, much milder compared to sheep or goat telemea. It can also be found fresh and it’s very creamy and delicious.
Buffalo milk telemea resembles the cow’s milk cheese, but it’s much more creamy, buttery and has a delicate, sweeter taste due to the higher fat content of buffalo milk. This type of telemea can also be found matured or fresh.
3. Salt Content
If you’re on a low-sodium diet then telemea cheese might not be the best option for you, especially matured telemea. However, you can now also find unsalted telemea or telemea with low-sodium content. This type of telemea is usually fresh, creamy and has a much shorter shelf-life.
A trick used by Romanians to reduce the salt content of telemea is to cleanse it before eating. Simply submerge the cheese in fresh water for a few hours, changing the water repeatedly. This will cleanse the cheese from excess salt and reduce the sodium content.
Telemea Cheese Brands
The bulk of telemea cheese sold in Romania is unbranded and comes from small local producers. You can find it in local food markets or supermarkets and it’s unpackaged.
But there are a few well known brands of telemea, the best known being Telemea de Ibănești. The telemea from Ibănești has been granted Protected Designation of Origin status and is listed in the Official Journal of the European Union. It is a remarkable cheese made from the milk of cows raised only in a few villages from Mureș County, Transylvania.
The production process is very old, being passed down from generation to generation. The cheese is salted using naturally salted water, obtained from several wells in the village of Orșova, also located in Mureș County.
It’s the first and only Romanian cheese to have been granted PDO status.
Traditional Appetizers with Telemea Cheese
Here, we discover traditional ways of enjoying elemea cheese. These recipes highlight the special flavors and culinary heritage of the region, showing the amazing potential of this top-quality cheese. Once you discover the exceptional qualities of telemea, you’ll find yourself incorporating it as a special guest ingredient in your culinary creations.
Fries with Shredded Telemea
The combination of crunchy fries and creamy, salty telemea creates a truly irresistible taste experience. Sprinkled generously with grated telemea, which melts to perfection, this easy and satisfying dish is a favorite with cheese lovers.
Whether as a tasty snack or a delightful side dish, fries with shredded telemea cheese are sure to please your palate.
Mamaliga with Telemea
The soft and fluffy polenta is served warm, topped with crumbled telemea cheese, which adds a savory and slightly salty note. The combination of the smooth polenta and the crumbly telemea creates a delightful contrast in texture and flavor, making it a satisfying traditional Romanian appetizer.
This is a traditional Romanian appetizer that features a flaky pastry filled with a savory mixture of telemea, eggs, and herbs. As it bakes, the cheese filling becomes wonderfully gooey and full of flavor. Each bite offers a delightful combination of buttery pastry and creamy telemea cheese.
It’s perfect for gatherings and special occasions.
Omelette with Telemea Cheese
A fluffy and satisfying dish, this omelet is made with beaten eggs, telemea, and a variety of fillings such as fresh vegetables, herbs, or ham.
The telemea truly makes the omelet a delicious and irresistible breakfast.
Telemea in Fresh Vegetable Salad
Telemea cheese can be added to fresh vegetable salads, giving them a salty touch. Sprinkle crumbled telemea over crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, and other seasonal vegetables.
It boosts the salad’s taste, adding creaminess and savoriness. This refreshing and nutritious appetizer is ideal for those seeking a light and flavorful start to their meal.
Tasty Substitutes for Telemea Cheese
Feta cheese is a crumbly and tangy cheese, similar to matured telemea. It has a distinct flavor and can be used as a versatile replacement for telemea in various recipes.
Feta cheese can be crumbled and sprinkled over salads, used as a topping for roasted vegetables, or incorporated into savory pastries and tarts. It’s a delicious alternative to Telemea in snacks and appetizers.
Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese with a firm texture that can be grilled or fried without melting.
Halloumi is not only amazing on its own. It also makes a great replacement for telemea cheese in salads, adding a delicious and satisfying element to the dish.
Ricotta can be used as a substitute for fresh telemea in certain recipes. While it may not have the same zesty taste, it offers a similar creamy texture.
One difference is that ricotta is less salty than telemea, making it suitable for those who prefer a milder flavor.
This works well in dishes such as salads, sandwiches, or pasta and can be used as a substitute for fresh telemea. However, it’s important to note that mozzarella has a smoother and more elastic texture compared to the crumbly texture of matured telemea.
In conclusion, whether enjoyed on its own, sprinkled over salads, incorporated into pastries, or paired with other ingredients in sandwiches, telemea cheese never fails to deliver a satisfying culinary experience. Its unique qualities and cultural significance make it a true gem in Romanian cuisine.