For a weekend, a small and quiet mountain village in the Sibiu County, called Rîu Sadului was turned into the headquarters of a series of activities and workshops aiming to revive the local traditions, to reconnect urban people to the village life and to save a local endangered cheese assortment.
What is Brânză de Burduf?
Burduf cheese (RO: brânză de burduf) is a traditional Romanian salty sheep milk cheese made in the mountains regions of the country. This type of cheese is made when the shepherds and their sheep are up in the mountains, where sheep eat the fat and nutritious mountains grass and give a high in fats milk. The milk is initially turned into caș de oaie, a fresh sweet cheese that (after 5 – 10 days) is cut into small pieces, salted and then hand-mixed in a large wooden bowl.
The mixture is then placed in a sheep’s stomach, or into a sheep’s skin that has been carefully cleaned and sewn on the edges. Actually this is where the name burduf comes from, burduf being the name for the sheep stomach or skin where the cheese is kept. The cheese can be eaten even if kept for a long time in the burduf.
It has a strong, sometimes a bit bitter flavor, and a soft, creamy texture. It is the base ingredient of many traditional recipes in the mountains villages, the most known ones being balmoș or bulz and of course, fresh tomatoes and burduf cheese.
The reason for making burduf cheese is mainly because up in the mountains shepherds don’t have too many options for refrigerating food. So using the sheep’s stomach or skin would help in preserving the cheese for a longer period of time. Every 2 – 3 weeks up to a month, all the cheese produced would be carried in the villages in the valley with donkeys.
An interesting fact about the burduf cheese is that you always cut it with a thread, rather than a knife, as, since the cheese is so creamy, it would all break into small piece and stick to the knife blade.
Burduf cheese is a bit of an endangered species, as is the tradition of being a shepherd and going up in the mountains with the sheep for the summer months. Young people tend to leave the country side, moving to the urban areas in search of easier jobs, or even moving abroad. There are less people wanting to be shepherds, to make burduf cheese and to spend their lives in the small mountain villages.
This was also why Burduf Challenge was organized. To make burduf cheese more known, to see how much work and effort is put behind producing this cheese, but also to convince the locals that there is still interest in traditions, in the village life and in all its beauties. Burduf Challenge was meant to fill the roads of Rîu Sadului with people looking for outdoor activities, enjoying nature and the realities of the village. It meant a lot of workshops and activities. But it was also meant to bring awareness regarding the idea of #eatinglocal – buy from small local producers around your area, sustain a local small community, help in keeping alive traditional products and old recipes.
Mountain Trail Run
The day started with a proper 15km mountain trail run, for those fit enough to speed up on the mountains surrounding the village. They got an amazing view on their way, meet shepherds and their sheep quietly eating grass, passed by small wooden cottages and the fastest ones got (of course) some burduf cheese as a prize.
The running competition was organized by Tură-în Natură.
Cheese and butter workshop
Of course that we also had to have a burduf cheese workshop, where a local shepherd showed us all the process of making this cheese. We also got to taste the cheese and kids where the happiest ones and the most curious to see how cheese is made. During the same workshop we also got to see how butter is made and we also got to contribute in the making. Not to mention we also got to try the freshly made butter, on bread with salt. Excellent taste!
Honey making workshop
Honey is a tradition in Romania, in many parts of the country and also in the area around the mountains. There are plenty of summer flowers and blossomed trees that the bees can chose from for a flavored and fresh honey. There are still beekeepers around (not that many though) who still use the traditional instruments and methods to make honey. Kids were again thrilled to see how honey is made, to see where bees live, how a honey comb looks like and to taste the freshly squeezed honey.
A happy and talented grandma showed us how traditional netting is done. Carefully crafted, full of colors and patterns, her works were beautiful. People were also encouraged to try it out and see for themselves how it’s done.
For those wanting to workout a bit and to get in shape, a mowing workshop was available. It’s a lot of effort into it, but the view compensates for everything.
Outdoor yoga class
For a bit of a relaxation, there was also an outdoor yoga class. It was a double relaxation time, once from the yoga exercises and second from the view around.
Thematic hiking trip
For about 3 hours a group of curious kids and grownups followed Miruna, a passionate biologist, through the forest in search of mushrooms, berries, eatable leaves, roots or flowers. They found out a lot about the plants in our area and came back with a full basket of goodies, ready to be cooked.
Picnic at a shepherd’s cottage
For lunch, we had the option and the chance to go on a trip. First with a horse chart and then on a one hour hike up to one of the shepherd’s cottages. These cottages are the summer base for shepherds and their sheep and lots of them are not not used anymore as there aren’t so many shepherds left. They are set up on the mountains ridges, with beautiful views on the neighboring mountains and the villages in the valley.
Our picnic basket was carefully filled by the organizers with fresh local products from the village, including of course, some burduf cheese.
Dinner with the locals
For dinner we had two options, one was to eat a traditional dinner made by the locals at the village Culture House (the place in the village where most of the events happen). From the menu – sheep stew and of course polenta with burduf cheese.
Dinner with ingredients from 1000m and higher
For those in search of a true gastronomic experience, Ioan Bebeșelea, the Head Chef of SyndicatGourmet, one of the best restaurants in Sibiu, together with Miruna, a biologist, created a concept dinner using ingredients found at 1000 m and higher. The menu: wild mushrooms soup with burduf cheese, trout with juniper, polenta infused with lichens tea, sheep with spruce leaves, cake with sweet cheese and berries.
The day ended with a The Hipodrome of Music party.
Burduf Challenge was organized by Asociația My Transylvania in collaboration with Rîu Sadului town hall. For these kind of events and many more around the Sibiu area and not only, follow My Transylvania via their Facebook page and website.
#eatlocal #burdufchallenge #madelastana #slowfood