Sirene is a type of white brine cheese made in South-East Europe and is a national food of all the countries in the Balkans.
It is a very popular cheese in Bulgaria, often referred to as “Bulgarian Cheese”; however its official name is White Brine Sirene. A brine cheese means that it is soaked in brine for a period of either a few hours to a few weeks/months during its maturation, depending on the strength of flavour desired. Sirene is matured for a minimum of 3 months.
Originally the cheese was made from goat´s milk and in some regions still is, however the more modern version is often made from cow´s milk, sheep´s milk or a mix of milk´s, as this works out cheaper.
The cheese is very much like the Greek Feta cheese; it is slightly crumbly and grainy in texture and has a 40-45% fat content. However sirene has a slightly more creamier flavor than Feta, which has more of a briny flavour. Like feta it can be brought in blocks, or already diced.
Sirene is eaten nationally; it is a popular ingredient in many Bulgarian dishes, for example the shopska salad.
Some of the most popular traditional Bulgarian that use sirene in their recipes are:
Potato soup with sirene
Vegetable soup with sirene
Shopska salad, with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onions and sirene
Ovcharska salad with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onions, vegetables, cheese, ham, egg, olives and sirene
Sliced tomatoes topped with sliced sirene is a popular light summer salad, or starter
Fried eggs, omelette´s and sirene
Stuffed peppers, with rice, egg and sirene
Mashed sirene overlaid with boiled egg, topped with a yogurt, garlic, parsley and walnut sauce
Spaghetti with a tomato and sirene sauce
Macaroni or flat noodles with a sirene and sugar sauce
Kachamak (similar to cornmeal) is always eaten with sirene.
Pastry (like Banitsa) and sirene