Traditional Cheese Making at Romanian Sheepfold
Many sheepfolds in Romania continue to produce cheese in a traditional manner. The process itself is just an input from various bacteria. The hard work goes into raising the sheep. Sheep farmers George Coajă and his son, Ion, keep a flock of 400 sheep for milk. They follow a rough sleep cycle, which requires getting up at 5 am and going to bed earlier. The evening milk is stored overnight and cheese is made in the morning, after the morning milking.
Milking the Sheep – VIDEO
Milking is finished by 6.30 AM. The milk is strained to remove any hairs, straws or bits of dirt which may have dropped in during milking. Traditional cheese making starts off with lighting a fire to bring the evening milk to a lukewarm temperature and mix it with the morning milk, then it is as simple as adding three-four spoons of rennet and let the enzymes do the work.
Traditional Cheese Making – VIDEO
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The secret stands in the curdling process. Rennet from newborn lambs makes the best cheese. Curdling takes up to one hour and should not be forced by adding more rennet, or else the cheese will have a chalky taste.
After the curds are separated from the whey, the cheese is transferred onto a cheese drainer (hârzob) before it is hung to drain into a cheese strainer for 2 days. After 2 days, it is placed on a cheese stand, known as comarnic, where it rests one more day. It gets a nice yellow color as it dries.
But wait, there’s more. The whey is boiled until small cheese lumps float on the surface. This is a kind of traditional sheepfold dessert known as jântiţă, and it is served with sugar.
They gather the cheese lumps with a strainer and let it drain in line with the rest of the cheese. This is known as urdă, a light, sweet cheese. You probably heard of ricotta. It’s the same product, with different names.
By 10 am, the fresh cheese is hung to drain and sheep are put out to pasture, until evening, when they are milked again. Evening milk production is higher than the morning milk. Four hundred sheep produce about 150 l (39 gal) milk, 30 kg (66 lbs) cheese and 5 kg (11 lbs) urdă per day. In winters they are fed corn stalks and hay. Starting January, when babies are born, they receive alfalfa.