Bucegi Mountains Brânză de Burduf

Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity - Ark of Taste


Brânză de Burduf is a traditional cheese made from a mix of sheep’s and cow’s milk by herders in Transylvania, particularly around Bran. The cheese is wrapped in fir bark before being aged.

Brânză de burduf cheese
A view of the Bucegi mountains
Farmers at work

The tradition of transhumance, the seasonal migration of livestock, is still very alive on the slopes of the Bucegi mountains, one of the highest groups of the Carpathians. In the spring, the herders climb up to the wooden stane (mountain huts), which are built above the fir woods, at altitudes as high as 2,000 meters above sea level.

The milking phase

They spend the whole summer here with their animals, milking them by hand three times a day. Each milking is used to make cheeses of various types: Brânză de Burduf, Telemea (a fresh cheese similar to Greek feta), Caşcaval, Caş and Urda (ricotta).

The two locally farmed sheep breeds are the Tigae and the Turcana. These hardy, thick-fleeced breeds are well suited to the mountain pastures, most of which can only be reached by steep, narrow paths. Roads are rare and the animals (including the small, hardy, local cows) are taken up to the pastures through the dense forest.

A young shepherd looking after the sheep

Brânză de Burduf is typically eaten on its own, while Caș, which forms its base, is commonly used in Romanian mountain cooking, for example as a filling for bile de mămăligă (balls of corn polenta which the local herders cook directly over the fire in their stane). 

Mamaliga, made with corn flour

Making Caș is the first step to making Brânză de Burduf. Caș is obtained by curdling the milk with lamb or veal rennet, then leaving the curd to drain in a cloth, under a weight.

Draining of the curd

Over the next hours, the curd is removed and broken up three times, then eventually placed, without salt, in a fir wood tub (putină), where it remains for up to two weeks. Over time, the curd ferments and acidifies.


Grinding of the curd

Following this process, the tub is turned out and the mass is cut into vertical slices and ground up with salt.

The cylinders of fir bark are filled with the mixture

This mixture is used to fill cylinders made from coaja de brad (fir or pine bark). The bark, trimmed of the woodiest part and softened in hot whey, is sown closed with string to form a cylinder 25 centimeters tall and 10 centimeters in diameter, closed at each end with a disk of bark.

Closing of the bark

Brânză de Burduf is only made from May to July, when the trees are growing and full of resin and the bark is soft enough so that it does not break when bent. The cheese can be eaten after being aged for a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 2 months. Over time it acquires a more marked piquancy, and the fir bark gives the cheese very pronounced resiny notes and enhances its sensory qualities.

One of the producers of traditional branza

Cheese production is one of the main activities in the Bucegi mountains. The sheep and cattle herds in the pastures belong to several owners. At the end of the season in the mountains, they give the herders lambs and some of the cheese produced in the summer as payment. Slow Food has started a Presidium to defend traditional Brânză cheese produced in this area.

Credits: Story

Photo — Alberto Peroli

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