CHEESE AT A GLANCE AND HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OF WHITE-BRINED CHEESE (WBC)
Sirene as a type of WBC is a popular fermented daily product, widely consumed in the Balkans-Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, etc. This product is known under different names- “WBC,” “Byalosalamurenosireneor only “sirene” (Bulgaria) (Figure 2.1) and is similar to Feta (Greece), Beyazpeynir (Turkey), Teleme (Romania), Beli Sir UKriskama (former Yugoslavia) (Alichanidis and Polychroniadou, 2008; Hayaloglu et al., 2008). They are manufactured traditionally from raw milk of sheep, cows, goats (caprine), or a mixture of them. Bulgarians know WBC simply as “sirene" (cheese). The word “cheese” comes from Slavonic languages and means “ran’,” because in the past raw milk is used for cheese making. From the historical point of view, cheese making is connecting with the cavalry of khan Asparuh’s (a great ruler who founded the First Bulgarian Empire in 681). The people earned milk in leather skins over horse saddles and during the journey; milk is turned into white cheese. Such type of cheese is traditionally made in the region of the Balkan Peninsula. In Bulgaria, the word “cheese” means WBC, and this type of dairy product is made in the same way for thousands of years.
FIGURE 2.1 Different types of white cheese produced in brine and widely consumed in the Balkans.
Except for the WBC (Figure 2.1), which is related to the group of semi- hard cheeses, ripened in brine, traditional for Bulgaria is also the yellow cheese, named “kachkavaP’-belonging to the group of hard cheeses (Figure 2.2). However, WBC is the main object of our cheese manufacture (80% of the processed milk is used for its production) due to its first place in consumption (Baltadjieva, 1993). Moreover, according to some sensory characteristics (in taste, aroma, and texture), white cheese from Bulgaria distinguish greatly from the Greek cheese Feta. The traditional Bulgarian WBC has a smooth texture without excessive crumbliness and is matured for up to 2 months in a brine solution (Figure 2.3), which provides the slightly salty, though not unpleasant flavor of cheese. The fresh texture and tang come from the special cultures which are used during the cheese production process.
The taste of the WBC is sharp, yet mellow, not sour. The salty and slightly acidic taste arises from storage in dense brine in the presence of 12 to 18% sodium chloride (NaCl) and the effect of LAB during ripening (Bintsis and Papademas, 2002; Dabevska-Kostoska et al., 2015). That’s why acid and salt are the main indicators for the conservation of WBC. The color of this traditional Bulgarian cheese has incomparable whiteness.
FIGURE 2.2 Classification of different types of cheese, according to the category of coagulum and technology applied.
Source: Figure according to Baltadjieva (1993).
FIGURE 2.3 Flowchart of the manufacturing of white-brined cheese according to industrial (black boxes) or traditional technology (red boxes).
Source: According to Baltadjieva (1993).
The production process of the WBC goes through the following parts: acceptance and qualifying of the milk, cooling, pasteurization, curdle, cutting, draining away, and extrusion, slicing of fresh cheese, salting, packing, sealing hermetically, ripening, and preservation. The overall scheme is shown in Figure 2.3 and the common steps with traditional technology are pointed (in red color). The obtaining product is stable and lasts for a year since the date of production and the more mature the cheese is, the bigger its nutrient value is. The ripening process takes from 45 to 60 days, depending on the type of milk. During the ripening stage, major changes occur in protein structure and minor changes-in fats. As a result of multiple physicochemical and biochemical changes, the product reaches a particular “bouquet” of taste and aroma (Moatsouaand Govaris, 2011; Barac et al., 2017). The ripened WBC contains on average 16-25% protein, 23-32% fat, 500-885 mg calcium, and about 550 mg phosphorus.
SPECIFICATION OF CHEESE AS TRADITIONAL FERMENTED MILK PRODUCT
OVERALL PRESENTATION OF TECHNOLOGY OF WHITE- BRINED CHEESE (WBC) MAKING
In Bulgaria this type of cheese is prepared from different types of milk- sheep, cow, buffalo, goat or a mixture of them as follows-the most popular are those of cow + owine milk (OC), followed by caprine + cow milk. This is one difference with Feta cheese (Figure 2.1), which is made only from sheep milk. The tradition of mixing different kinds of milk is observed in some mountain areas of Bulgaria with mixed livestock breeding and at the end of the lactation period for sheep or goats. In other geographical regions, this tradition has also been applied (Haddad et al., 2017). The sheep milk has been most preferred for the production of WBC since it makes cheese sweeter and creamier.
The problem of ensuring the extended shelf-life of cheese finds a solution by conserving it in brine liquor. Brine represents salted water and acts as “a veritable fountain of youth” for cheese by stopping the process of ripening to keep the cheese “young.” It dries out rapidly when removed from the brine. According to the Bulgarian National Standard 15:2010, WBC refers to a lactic acid product made from pasteurized milk, supplemented with symbiotic starter cultures and by curdling with rennet, which has undergone the necessary treatment and ripening process. It is produced by standardized to casein/milk fat content whole milk. Species Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus lactis ssp. lactis, isolated in Bulgaria and not subjected to genetic modification, are used as starter cultures.