Authentic Hutsul Bryndza
Hutsul bryndza - a special Ukrainian sheeps milk cheese, will soon become a brand of its own. This cheese is produced only in three regions of Ukraine - Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattia. The Association of Sheep Breeders assures that the Hutsul cheese has a special taste. Our correspondents tried the real deal in Rakhiv, at a festival celebrating the Ukrainian classic
“They are grazed on the highlands under the Chorna Mountain. This is more than 1,500 meters above sea level,” sheep breeder Pavlo Kateryniuk said.
Kateryniuk and others recently brought their sheep and signature cheese to a festival celebrating hutsul bryndza in Rakhiv, in the Zakarpattya region.
The main requirements for real hutsul bryndza is that the sheep graze in the mountains at an altitude of no less than 700 meters and that their milk mature in special wooden barrels.
“Special starter for fermentation is extracted from a cow stomach. You put it in the milk, wait for 15-20 minutes and then the milk becomes quark,” said a man as he was demonstrating the process.
After the milk transforms into quark it is dried and ground with salt. Ten kilograms of quark are required for one kilogram of salt.
“We grind it well and then leave it for two-to-three days. After that I put it in jars, cause it is stored better like that,” a woman said.
Hutsul bryndza has a pleasant smell of sheep milk, fragrant mountain herbs and hay. It is salty and moderately sour.
“It is very salty,” a young boy said.
“Salty, but bryndza has its specific smell, like any other cheese. Some people do not like it, some just go crazy when they smell it,” his father added.
“Tasty, pleasant, filling. It does not taste like anything else, does not feel like any other cheese we are used to,” festivalgoer Olha Mazur said.
A herd consisting of 200 sheep gives around 100 liters of milk. That can be transformed into 30 kilos of cheese. The price of one kilogram starts at 200 hryvni, which is around $8. Sheep breeders have united into an association and requested the Ukrainian government to give bryndza ‘protected designation of origin’ status.
“For producers, it is a chance to receive recognition of their product. Consumers will trust the brand and will understand that behind the name there is high quality and authenticity. The product shifts to the category of elite products that are being produced in the Ukrainian Carpathians since the 15th century,” National Geographic Trademarks Expert Halyna Antoniuk said.
There are just a few formal procedures left for hutsul bryndza to be protected by the designation of origin.