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Sirene/Bulgarian Sirenje (сирене); Macedonian сирење ; Serbian/Croatian: сир, sir, Albanian: djath i bardhe) or known as "white brine sirene" (Bulgarian бяло саламурено сирене; is a type of brine cheese made in South-Eastern Europe, especially popular in Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia and other Balkan countries. It was originally made of goat's milk, but the predominant variation today is made of the cheaper cow's milk, sheep milk or a combination of milks. It is slightly crumbly with a fat content of about 40-45%. 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.
Sirene, together with yoghurt, is a national food of all the countries in the Balkans. Many Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, Macedonians and Greeks regularly eat some sirene or yoghurt in some form. In Macedonia especially are popular the Maleševo and Mavrovo cheese.
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, macaroni or flat noodles (Bulgarian: "юфка, jufka", Macedonian: "јуфки, jufki" or "кори, kori ") 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.
Sirene (and similar cheeses) in other countries
Similar cheeses are known in other countries by different names:
- Greece: Feta - Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
- Israel: Bulgarit (בולגרית) - 'Bulgarian (cheese)'
- Lebanon: Bulghari (بلغاري) - 'Bulgarian (cheese)'
- Romania: Telemea, Brinza
- Russia: Bryndza (Брынза)
- Turkey: Beyaz peynir 'White cheese'
- Mexico: Cotija cheese
- Iran: Tabrizi: 'White cheese (paneer)'