Bulgarian Sirene Making Instructions

sirene-making

It is easy to make Bulgarian sirene using Bacillus Bulgaricus Sirene starter culture.

It only takes a few easy steps to make your own hard white brined cheese, or otherwise known as sirene (aka Bulgarian feta).

You can use any kind of milk you want — cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s, skim, whole, raw, pasteurized, dairy (unfortunately this does not work with non-dairy milk), it will make some great sirene! Just avoid using ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk because the taste of your sirene won’t turn as good. For best results, we recommend using whole milk.

Below you can find the traditional way of making Bulgarian sirene, and a quick two-day way, which I personally prefer to use when I don’t have time to wait through the entire maturation time. At the end, I’ve added a quick photo guide of the entire cheese making process in case you want some visual aid.

Sale!
$2.99$12.99

Our Bulgarian Sirene (hard white brined cheese) starter makes a delicious sirene that turns out perfectly every time. Crumbly or creamy with excellent taste and great aroma, it's never been easier to make your own sirene. Select a pack size and get some now!

The instructions below are for treating 1 gallon (4 litres) of milk so you need to adjust them accordingly for other quantities. 4 litres (1 gallon) of milk make about 800 grams (1.6 lbs) of white brined (sirene) cheese.

Ingredients and Utensils

  • 1 gallon (4 litres) of milk
  • 1 pack of Bacillus Bulgaricus Sirene Starter culture (it’s best to use the entire pack so make sure you get a pack for the same volume of milk you are treating)
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (you can easily find rennet online or in your local grocery store)
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid calcium chloride (if you are using pasteurized milk, you don’t need the CaCl2 for raw milk)
  • Salt
  • Cheese cloth – you’ll strain the cheese in it. Butter muslin or clean sterile handkerchiefs at the least
  • Strainer or colander – you’ll drain the curds in it. Make sure your sterilize it with hot water before using it
  • Cheese mold – you’ll shape and brine the cheese in it. If you don’t have one, basically any container would do.
  • Food thermometer – can do without but it’s always handy to have one
  • Ladle – you’ll scoop up the curds with it. A large spoon works well too
  • Knife – you’ll cut the curds with it so a longer one is better

Traditional Bulgarian Cheese Making Instructions

Use this method if you prefer to make your Bulgarian sirene the traditional way.

1. Prepare the milk

If using raw milk, heat the milk to 165-172°F (74-78°С) and hold there for about 5 minutes. That way you make sure that any existing external bacteria in it, which could react with the Sirene culture, is killed. Then cool the milk down to 93-97°F (34-37°C).

If using pasteurized milk, you can simply heat the milk to 93-97°F (34-37°C).

If using pasteurized milk, you will need to add CaCl2 at this step. Dissolve 1/2 tsp of calcium chloride in 1/4 cup cool, non-chlorinated water and add to the milk (you can also dissolve the CaCl2 directly into the milk).

Note: Commercial pasteurization pulls a certain amount of calcium from the milk during the process. Adding calcium chloride to the milk makes up for this loss, helps produce firmer setting curds during separation making it easier to cut and resulting in yielding more cheese. Adding Calcium Chloride at this step is a good idea in general.

2. Culture the milk

Add the Bacillus Bulgaricus Sirene Starter culture to the milk. To prevent the powder from caking and clumping, sprinkle the contents of the pack over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2-3 minutes for the starter to hydrate before stirring it in. Then stir it into the milk using a gentle up-and-down motion so it distributes thoroughly. Do so for about 5 minutes.

Note: At no time whisk. Whisking introduces air bubbles into the milk and that slows down incubation.

3. Let the starter work its magic

Cover the pot with the milk and allow it to sit for about an hour to allow the bacteria to begin working. There is no need to maintain the temperature of the milk during this time, it’s OK for it to slowly cool down to about 86-88°F (30-32°C).

Note: If you prefer your Bulgarian Sirene with more tang, simply let it sit for longer. pH is a function of time so the longer the bacteria works, the more acidic the milk gets and the tangier the cheese gets too.

4. Coagulate with rennet

Dilute 1/4 tsp (1.5 ml) of the liquid rennet in a 1/4 cup cool water (make sure you use non-chlorinated water – spring, mineral, filtered are all ok).

Add the diluted solution to the milk while stirring slowly. Continue to slowly stir with the up and down motion for another 2-3 minutes.

Cover the container and let it sit for about an hour. The culture will continue to work while the rennet coagulates the milk into curds.

Again, there is no need to maintain the temperature of the milk during this time, it’s OK for it to slowly cool down but try to keep it no lower than 86-88°F (30-32°C), i.e. apply a little heat if necessary, just exercise caution – you don’t want to cook the curds.

5. Check if curd is ready

At this point the milk should have transformed into a sold mass of curd surrounded by a small amount of liquid whey. To check if the milk is fully set, push the side that is touching the container in using a spoon or a knife. Milk is ready for the next step if the separation is clear. If the line of separation is still blurry, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another 15 minutes then test again. Repeat until it is ready.

6. Cut the curd

Cut the curd into 2 inch (4cm) squares using a knife. Try to cut so that pieces are more or less the same size. The larger these pieces the moister the final cheese is going to be so you can play with those to customize your cheese to your preference.

Let the curds sit for another 10 minutes. This helps more whey to separate.

Note: Gently stirring the curds at this point for another 10 minutes will help more whey separate. The firmness of your final cheese depends on the time stirred in whey. The longer you stir, the firmer your curds will become and the firmer and sharper your final cheese will be (more like Greek feta).

If you prefer a milder crumblier cheese (much like the original Bulgarian sirene) then don’t stir the curds. That way they will preserve their moisture and allow for a slow and steady acidification and the final tang at molding will be milder.

7. Drain the Curd

Next, we need to drain the curds. When you do so, make sure you save the whey because you will need it for the brine.

Line a colander with the muslin or cheesecloth, letting excess cloth hang over the sides of the colander. Gently ladle the curds into the colander. Let the curds drain for about 30-60 minutes, or until there is little whey visible around the curds. If using a cloth simply tie the corners of the cloth into a sack, put a wooden spoon through the knot and let it hang inside a tall pot or a bucket.

The whey should be draining out as a steady light stream for most of the time.

After the initial draining time, open the cloth, cut or break the curds up into smaller pieces (about half their initial size) then tie the cloth together with the curds bundled inside, put it on its knot and allow it to rest for another hour. If you would like to drain the curds faster, put some weight on top of the cloth with bundled curds so the pressure can assist the drainage (just make sure they are well tied up snugly inside so they don’t leak out when you do that).

After the second draining time, repeat the same curd breaking procedure, re-tie the cloth, and let it drain again for another hour.

In general, shorter draining time will create a smoother creamier textured cheese while longer draining will create a drier crumblier cheese.

Note: You can use the drained whey either for the brine in which you will age the cheese or to make ricotta.

8. Make the Brine

Now is a good time to make the brine while you are waiting for the curds to drain. Of course you can do it at a later point too because you will need it only when the cheese is ready to be aged.

Use a container that is large enough to house the cheese but not too large.

Brine is made of water and salt and we will be using the whey that drained from the curds. Using the whey is good because it contains all the milk solids that didn’t form into curds.

Traditional brine is made from a ratio of 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon (4 litres) of water but you can experiment and add more or less depending on how salty you like your cheese. I usually aim to make an 8% salt brine (which simply means that the weight of the salt is 8% of the weight of the brine). A good rule of thumb is add a tablespoon of salt per cup of brine.

Keep the brine in the fridge for now until you need it.

9. Shape the Cheese

After about all the draining (total time about 4 hrs) the curds should be ready to be placed in the cheese mold. Ideally you should use a mold similar to the one on the pictures but if you don’t have that, any container that allows drainage would do. If your container has larger wholes (like a basket for example) simply line it up with muslin or cheesecloth to hold the cheese in shape and prevent it from leaking out.

Transfer the drained curds to the mold. While you do so, press them down lightly as you go to consolidate them a bit, just try not to break them too much.

When all the curds are in, put a light weight on top of them, inside the mold, to keep them pressed down to release more whey and help further consolidate the curds in the mold.

As the cheese making strains are still producing lactic acid, make sure that you keep the mold warm or at least room temp – 72-82°F (22-28°C) is ideal.

Allow the cheese to shape and further drain overnight. After about 6 hours you can remove the weight (or you can leave it till the end).

Cheese will shrink down and form inside the mold. It will be visibly hard at this point.

Note: If you have a pH meter you can measure the cheese – it should be around 4.7-4.9pH. If not, you can simply taste the drained whey – it should taste somewhat sharp and acidic.

10. Salt the cheese

Now that the cheese has shaped, it is time to cut it in chunks and salt it. Take the cheese out of the mold and cut it into chunks (size doesn’t really matter). The smaller the pieces the more salt they will absorb quicker.

Generously salt all sides of pieces. I like to use a more coarse salt (like kosher or fleur de sel) but finer salt will do too. If you need guidelines as to how much salt to use — use about 5-8% of the weight of the cheese. Use about 1/3 of the salt for this first salting.

Leave at room temperature for 24 hours turning the pieces every once in a while, adding more salt to the wet areas. Salt will further extract moisture from the cheese. Keep covered with a muslin or a cloth in a cool dry place (pantry or in the refrigerator is also ok). Over the next 3 days, drain off the whey and flip the pieces over once or twice a day.

Once the salting step is complete, the cheese needs to rest for another 1-2 days while the salt is absorbed and the initial maturation begins. The changes that take place to the cheese during this time help cheese stay firm during the brine aging phase.

11. Brine the cheese

Take out your brine, or if you haven’t prepared one, make it now.

If you did not use the drained whey to make the brine, add 1/2 tsp calcium chloride for each gallon (4 litres) of brine. This will keep the brine from pulling calcium from the cheese. It’s a good idea to add CaCl2 to the brine in general regardless as it helps cheese stay firmer for longer.

Place the cheese pieces into the container with the brine. Make sure the container is filled with brine to the top to avoid mold development.

The cheese can be aged in brine for just a few days and up to several years. It gets sharper in flavor as it matures.

Note: If you notice that the brine gets cloudier in a few days and your cheese is dissolving in it then this means that the calcium is stripped from the cheese and its surface will deteriorate in a matter of days. If that happens, simply try to consume the cheese quickly before it falls into pieces. And next time use more CaCl2 when preparing the brine.

Done! Your cheese is ready to be enjoyed!

A Quick Two-Day Bulgarian Cheese Making Method

Use this method if you would like to get your sirene a few days faster compared to the traditional Bulgarian cheese making method.

This method cuts some corners sacrificing some of the flavor and durability of the Bulgarian sirene in favor of making it quickly – in a matter of two days. This method is ideal if you want to make a small amount of sirene fast and then consume it over a few days.

Steps 1 – 8 are the same as above. So just follow them and come back here for step 9.

9. Shape the Cheese

After about all the draining (total time about 4 hrs) the curds should be ready to be placed in the cheese mold. Ideally you should use a mold similar to the one on the pictures but if you don’t have that, any container that allows drainage would do. If your container has larger wholes (like a basket for example) simply line it up with muslin or cheesecloth to hold the cheese in shape and prevent it from leaking out.

Transfer the drained curds to the mold. While you do so, press them down lightly as you go to consolidate them a bit, just try not to break them too much.

When all the curds are in, put a light weight on top of them, inside the mold, to keep them pressed down to release more whey and help further consolidate the curds in the mold.

As the cheese making strains are still producing lactic acid, make sure that you keep the mold warm or at least room temp – 72-82°F (22-28°C) is ideal.

Allow the cheese to shape and further drain for about 8 hours (or overnight).

Cheese will shrink down and form inside the mold. It will be visibly hard at this point.

Note: If you have a pH meter you can measure the cheese – it should be around 4.7-4.9pH. If not, you can simply taste the drained whey – it should taste somewhat sharp and acidic.

10. Salt the cheese

Now that the cheese has shaped, it is time to cut it in chunks and salt it. Take the cheese out of the mold and cut it into chunks (size doesn’t really matter). The smaller the pieces the more salt they will absorb quicker.

Generously salt all sides of pieces. I like to use a more coarse salt (like kosher or fleur de sel) but finer salt will do too. If you need guidelines as to how much salt to use — use about 5-8% of the weight of the cheese. Use about 1/3 of the salt for this first salting.

In about 4 hours, turn the pieces, adding more salt to the wet areas. Salt will further extract moisture from the cheese.

Cover with a muslin or a cloth in a cool dry place (pantry or in the refrigerator is also ok).

In another 4 hours, drain off the whey, flip the pieces over, and apply more salt.

Repeat this step once or twice more.

11. Brine the cheese

Add 1 tsp calcium chloride for each gallon of brine. This will keep the brine from pulling calcium from the cheese.

Place the cheese pieces into the container with the brine. Make sure the container is filled with brine to the top to avoid mold development.

Place the container in the fridge.

Cheese is ready to eat in about 6 hrs.

Note: Because this is the quick method, your cheese will start dissolving in the brine fairly quickly. This happens because we did not salt it and mature it for the full period of 4-5 days so the calcium is stripped from the cheese much quicker now. This is completely natural so just consume the cheese over the next few days before it falls into pieces.

 

The Process in Pictures

sirene-heat-milk

Heat up milk and culture it.

sirene-add-rennet

Coagulate with rennet.

sirene-cut-curds

Cut the curd.

sirene-break-curds

Break the curds.

sirene-drain

Transfer the curds to a cheesecloth.

sirene-drain-more

Drain the curds.

sirene-drain-shape

Transfer the curds into the mold and let it drain.

sirene-shape-cheese

Cheese will shrink down and form inside the mold. It will be considerably harder at this point.

sirene-cut-shape

Cut the cheese into chunks to prepare for salting. The smaller the pieces the more salt they will absorb quicker.

sirene-salt-cheese

Salt the cheese. The changes that take place to the cheese during this time help cheese stay firm during the brine aging phase.

sirene-brine

Brine the cheese.

sirene-enjoy

Enjoy the cheese!

Sale!
$2.99$12.99

Our Bulgarian Sirene (hard white brined cheese) starter makes a delicious sirene that turns out perfectly every time. Crumbly or creamy with excellent taste and great aroma, it's never been easier to make your own sirene. Select a pack size and get some now!

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