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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » March 29, 2012
Regional and Traditional Products
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Bryndza Podhalańska
March 29, 2012   
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Bryndza podhalańska (sheep’s milk cheese from the Podhale region) was the first Polish regional product registered by the European Commission, in 2007. The bryndza-making tradition dates back to the 16th century and is connected with the culture of Wallachian shepherds who wandered through the Carpathian Mountains.

Bryndza podhalańska is one of the most recognizable Tatra Mountain cheeses. It is a soft rennet cheese made in the Podhale region from sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk mixed with the milk of the Polish Red cattle breed. The cheese is slightly spicy, sharp and salty in flavor and spreads easily on bread. It is made in shepherd huts during the summer sheep grazing season.

The rich tradition behind the production of bryndza podhalańska is evidenced by numerous mentions in literature, landowners’ decrees and royal writs. The oldest mention of bryndza comes from 1527. There exist many descriptions of bryndza production methods in literature, together with prices in different years.

Making sheep’s milk cheese was of key importance in sheep farming in the Podhale region over the centuries. Shepherds taking their sheep to mountain pastures to graze would spend several months there. During this time they subsisted almost exclusively on sheep’s milk and its products. The knowledge and skills related to making bryndza podhalańska were passed on from generation to generation and today this is an art known only to producers from the region. The production of this unique cheese is made possible by a combination of natural factors, special skills and sticking to the traditional recipe.

The traditional production method guarantees that the final product is of the highest quality and has the required unique flavor. The name “bryndza,” from the Romanian brinze, comes from Wallachian shepherds grazing their sheep in mountain pastures. The cheese was made by the wandering Wallachian tribes that reached Poland traveling along the curve of the Carpathian Mountains. Because the wave of Wallachian settlement encompassed the entire western Carpathians, the shepherd culture—including cheese production—was most likely the same all across this region, with just minor local modifications.

The quality of the final product is due to the special place where it is made. Its features include the region’s rich and diverse vegetation, with many species found only in the Tatra Mountains and Podhale, growing in the meadows and pastures there. Sheep feed on this unique mixture of plants in the grazing season. The area where bryndza podhalańska is made is one of the cleanest regions not only in Poland but in the whole of Europe. This area stretches between four national parks: Gorczański National Park in the north, Tatrzański National Park in the south, Babiogórski National Park in the west and Magurski National Park in the east. A fifth one, Pieniński National Park, just like the Tatrzański park, lies in the very heart of the bryndza-making region.

The cheese owes its special flavor to the raw ingredients that go into it. Bryndza podhalańska is made from milk from Polish mountain sheep, sometimes with added milk from Polish Red cows. The Polish Red cattle breed is a native breed developed in Poland. Meanwhile, the sheep breed is closely linked to the history and tradition of the Podhale region and its inhabitants.

The unique qualities of bryndza podhalańska are the result of the influence of natural and human factors, the region’s unique flora and fauna and production methods going back to the 15th century. These all result in an extraordinary cheese that has long been a favorite with fans of regional and traditional cuisine at home and abroad.
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