Green cheese is a type of moldy cheese, obtained using specialized methods. Such cheeses are made in Switzerland and England. In Bulgaria, they have a green cheese called Cherni Vit, made only in the village of the same name. For many years it was nearly forgotten but recently it has finally risen out of obscurity. Green cheese is a sort of white brine cheese, the only moldy cheese found on the Balkan Peninsula.
History of Green Cheese
The history of green cheese began many years ago when large herds of sheep were tended in Stara Planina mountain. In fact, the origin of the cheese is tied to a great extent to the way of life of the local people. In those days, shepherds often made cheese while their sheep grazed along the lush mountain pastures.
They would leave it in wooden vats which were not watertight and because of this, the brine would drain out. Thus, the cheese ended up without any liquid. Shortly before fall would set in, the shepherds would bring the cheese into the village where they would store it in humid wineries at temperatures of about 50°F (10 °C). When the cheese containers were opened, the dairy products would then catch a green mold. It was the result of the cheese's interaction with the humid and cold air.
This way, by complete chance, the villagers witnessed the birth of the unique Bulgarian green cheese. For quite some time it actually disappeared but in 2007 was rediscovered by an international organization and began bringing recognition to the country at forums and exhibitions.
8 years ago, the bizarre Bulgarian dairy product was presented at a prestigious festival in Bra, Italy. There, the green cheese managed to turn quite a few heads and earned high marks by the judges. The unique taste of the product so impressed the Italians that they headed out to finds its source. And that is how they ended up in Bulgaria and more specifically, in the village of Cherni Vit.
Production of Green Cheese
The green cheese in Cherni Vit is distinguished by its beneficial cheese mold that occurs naturally. In mass production of this cheese these processes are artificially induced. The mold grows in the wooden vats where the shepherds store the dairy product. In addition, the characteristic climate of Cherni Vit plays an important role in producing the cheese.
According to experts, the drastic change between the day and nighttime temperatures also have an effect. But to get green cheese, the presence of a particular milk is required - the milk from a Teteven sheep, created through selective breeding. Green cheese is a seasonal product which matures in the period between fall and spring. During this time, its taste properties change.
Characteristics of Green Cheese
Green cheese possesses a soft and delicate consistency, owed to the unpasteurized whole fat milk from which it is made. It is distinguished by its characteristic smell and rich taste, capable of winning over even the most fastidious epicure. Its aroma is pungent and earthy. Actually, anyone who tastes it says it is the most delicious cheese they've ever tried. The distinctive green mold provides it an extraordinarily curious appearance. Because of these characteristics, it can proudly sit among the ranks of the most impressive cheeses on the continent.
Cooking with Green Cheese
The one-of-a-kind taste qualities of green cheese make it suitable for a series of recipes. According to the minority that have managed to taste it, it can be combined with leafy vegetables and nuts. It can be given a sweet, as well as a slightly sour taste by combining it with a teaspoon of honey or sprinkling it with balsamic vinegar, respectively. As well, its combination with chocolate is quite excellent and unforgettable. However, this is but a small part of the boundless possibilities of this impressive Bulgarian cheese.
Here is a conventional recipe with the unconventional green cheese:
Ingredients: 5.5 oz green cheese, 4-5 tbsp honey, 5 tbsp coconut flakes.
Preparation: Dice the green cheese. Heat up the honey and pour it over the cheese. Sprinkle everything with coconut flakes and serve.
Preserving Green Cheese
Even thought the history of green cheese began long ago, its fate is still uncertain. For now it is only made by private households since it cannot be mass produced due to administrative hurdles. Green cheese is an icon of Bulgarian culture but for the time being it cannot break through on the market due to failure to comply with hygiene standards required by Brussels.
Another obstacle is that according to European legislation, a given product can only be considered traditional if it has been available on the market for at least 25 years in that country. Despite this, the locals have not lost hope and continue to believe that it will one day be legalized as a local product and will be able to draw visitors to the village, which in turn would guarantee employment for more people.