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|Country of origin||Balkans|
|Source of milk||Goats, Sheep, Cows|
|Pasteurised||Depends on variety|
|Texture||Depends on variety|
|Aging time||min. 3 months|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
Sirene or Sirenje (Bulgarian: сирене, pronounced [ˈsireɲe]; Serbian/Croatian: сир, sir, Albanian: djath i bardhe) or known as "white brine sirene" (Bulgarian: бяло саламурено сирене, [ˈsirɛnɛ]) is a type of brined cheese made in the Balkans (South-Eastern Europe), especially popular in Croatia, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, Montenegro and also in Israel. It is made of goat's milk, sheep milk, cow milk or a combination of milks. It is slightly crumbly with min. dry matter of about 46-48% and fat content in dry matter of about 44-48%. It is commonly produced in blocks, and has a slightly grainy texture. It is used as a table cheese, as well as in salads and in baking.
In Bulgarian, the general term for any type of cheese is сирене (sirene), although this also refers more specifically to the brined cheese made in the region.
Sirene, together with yogurt, is a national food of all the countries in the Balkans, existing in many national and regional variations. Many Romanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Bosnians, Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Albanians regularly eat some sirene or yoghurt in some form.
Traditional dishes using sirene are:
Soups: Potato or vegetable soup with sirene (сиренява чорба).
Salads: Shopska salad with tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions and sirene. Ovcharska salad ("shepherd's salad") with the above-mentioned vegetables, cheese, ham, boiled eggs and olives. Tomatoes with sirene is a traditional light salad during the summer.
Eggs: Fried eggs and omelettes with sirene. There is also a popular kind of boiled eggs over mashed sirene with a sauce of yogurt, garlic, parsley and walnuts (яйца по панагюрски; eggs à la Panagyurishte).
Pasta and cornmeal: Spaghetti with sirene and tomato sauce or ketchup. For breakfast, makaroni or flat noodles (Bulgarian: "юфка, yufka" with sirene and sugar are popular. Kachamak (the local variant of cornmeal, polenta or the Romanian mămăligă) is always eaten with sirene.
Pastry: The traditional banitsa and other kinds of pastry are also made with sirene.
Stuffed peppers: Stuffed peppers are more often made with rice filling but there is a very popular recipe with sirene-and-eggs filling.
Also it is consumed as an appetizer.
Similar cheeses in other countries
Many Balkan and other cheeses are similar to (but not the same as) sirene, and are known by various names. The local consumers of each country are usually well-aware of the differences between the various white cheeses. Part of the differences are that the specific breeds of sheep and goats used in each region are different and the food they consume may also possess specific regional characteristics that affect the taste and texture of each type of cheese.
- Czech Republic: Balkánský sýr - 'Balkan cheese'
- Greece: Feta - Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
- Iran: Tabrizi paneer - 'Cheese of Tabriz'
- Israel: Bulgarit (בולגרית) - 'Bulgarian (cheese)', Bulghari (بلغاري) - 'Bulgarian (cheese)'
- Lebanon: Bulghari (بلغاري) - 'Bulgarian (cheese)'
- Mexico: Cotija cheese
- Palestine: Nabulsi (جبنة نابلسية), and Akkawi (عكاوي)
- Romania: Telemea
- Russia: Bryndza (Брынза)
- Turkey: Beyaz peynir - 'White cheese'
- Ukraine: Bryndza (бринза)
- , "Characteristics of major traditional regional cheese varieties of East-Mediterranean countries: a review", Efstathios Alichanidis & Anna Polychroniadou, Dairy Sciеnce & Technology, Volume 88, Number 4-5, July–October 2008
- "The Bulgarian Institute for Standardization BDS 15:2010". The Bulgarian Institute for Standardization (BDS).