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.
The instructions below are for treating 4 litres (1 gallon) of milk so you need to adjust them accordingly for other quantities. 4 litres (1 gallon) of milk make about 700 grams (1.2 lbs) of white brined (sirene) cheese.
Ingredients and utensils that you would need
- 4 litres / 1 gallon of milk
- 1 pack of the 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 animal rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water – the rennet is sold freely in stores
- 1/4 teaspoon liquid calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup cool non-chlorinated water – the CaCl2 is sold freely in stores. In general, the calcium chloride solution has to be in the same amount as the rennet solution (and the dilution is 1:10, where 1 part is the CaCl2 or rennet and 10 parts are water). These are just guidelines, you can experiment to see what proportions work best for you
- cheese cloth (or butter muslin or clean sterile handkerchiefs)
- strainer or colander, make sure your sterilize them with hot water before using them
- cheese mould (this is where you will shape and brine the cheese, basically any container would do)
- salt (kosher is best but any kind works too)
- a quick-read thermometer – can do without but it’s always handy to have one
- Prepare the milk: Heat the milk to 165-172°F (74-78°С). This is done to kill any existing bacteria in it, which could react with the Lactobacillus Bulgaricus culture. Cool the milk down to 93-97°F (34-37°C).
- Culture the milk: Add the starter culture to the milk. Let it hydrate for 5 minutes, then stir it into the milk using a gentle up-and-down motion to distribute thoroughly. Do so for about 5 minutes. Add the diluted solution of calcium dichloride and stir it into the milk slowly for about 2-3 minutes. Add the rennet while continuing to stir, stir for another 3-5 minutes. Cover the container and let it sit for about an hour. At this point the milk should have transformed into a sold mass of curd surrounded by 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 its ready.
- Process the curds: Cut the curd into 1 inch (2cm) squares using a knife. Try to cut so that pieces are more or less the same size. Then let them sit for another 10 minutes. This helps more whey to separate. Give the curds a slow stir occasionally (about 2-3 times a minute) for the next 20 minutes. More whey will separate. At this point the curds will start getting harder
- Drain and shape the cheese: Next we need to drain the curds. Make sure you save the whey tho, you will need it for the brine. Line a colander with damped butter muslin or a double layer of cheesecloth, letting excess cloth hang over the sides of the colander. The cloth is optional but it helps to assist the drainage. Gently transfer the curds to the colander using a slotted spoon. Let the curds drain for about 30 minutes, or until there’s 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. Now it’s time to make the brine: add salt to the brine (in a ration 1 tablespoon salt per cup of brine). Keep the brine in the fridge for now until you need it. Allow the curds to drain overnight keeping them at room temperature. Cheese will shrink down and form inside the mold. It will be visibly hard at this point.
- Salt the cheese: Now that the curds are drained, it’s time to salt the cheese. Take the cheese out of the mold and cut into pieces, size doesn’t matter. The smaller the pieces the more salt they will absorb quicker. Generously salt all sides of pieces. Leave at room temperature for a full day turning the pieces every once in a while, adding more salt to the wet areas – salt will further drain the whey from the cheese. Place the container with the cheese pieces in the refrigerator and keep it there until the cheese has stopped producing whey, about five days. Drain off extruded whey and flip the pieces over once a day. You can cover the container with a plastic wrap or leave it uncovered, as you prefer
Done! Your cheese is ready to be enjoyed!
If you are not planning to eat the cheese right away, you can place it in brine for storage and to make it even saltier.
If you choose to brine the cheese, simply place the pieces in a container, add the brine that you had already prepared in step 4 above, and keep it in the fridge for as long as you want.