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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 1, 2014
Regional and Traditional Products
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Bryndza podhalańska
August 1, 2014   
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Bryndza podhalańska (sheep’s milk cheese from the southern Podhale region) was the first Polish regional product registered by the European Commission. The cheese is traditionally made in shepherd’s huts during the summer sheep grazing season, a custom that dates back to the 16th century.

Bryndza podhalańska is a cheese made from sheep’s milk or sheep’s milk mixed with cow’s milk. The cheese is spicy and salty in flavor—and sometimes slightly sharp and sour—and spreads easily on bread. 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 the first half of the 16th century. The name bryndza, from the Romanian brinze, came to Poland along with Wallachian shepherds grazing their sheep in mountain pastures. The cheese was made by the wandering Wallachian tribes.

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 away from home. During this time they subsisted almost exclusively on sheep’s milk and products derived from it. The knowledge and skills related to making bryndza podhalańska were passed on from generation to generation. 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 flavor, which is the result of it being made in a specific geographical area. The Podhale region has rich and diverse vegetation, with many species unique to the meadows and pastures there. 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, 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, a breed that is closely linked to the history and tradition of the Podhale region and its inhabitants. Sometimes cow’s milk is added. This comes from Polish Red cows, a breed that is native to Poland. Apart from traditional production methods, the cheese also owes its unique properties to natural factors. The unique flora of the Tatra Mountains and Podhale on which the local sheep graze has a huge impact on the final quality of the sheep’s milk used to make bryndza.

This all results 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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