In the Carpathian mountains, in Western Ukraine, you will find pure nature, ancient traditions, and delicious meals. Bryndza Festival is the main event during which you can get to know the cuisine of Hutsuls – an ethnic group of Ukrainians living in the Carpathian mountains. By the way, bryndza is a white cheese with a strong smell and taste.
In addition to bryndza, at this festival you will learn other words like vurda, budz, melainyk, riplianyky, kremzlyky, banosh, palachinky, yafenivka and palinka.
Every year throughout April-May shepherds travel high in the mountains to the meadows for grazing. They stay there until September: they take care of the animals, milk them and make cheeses: bryndza and vurda. And their return from the mountain meadow after several months of absence is celebrated cheerfully and on a large scale, by the whole community. Anyone can join the celebration on this occasion by visiting the bryndza festival in Rakhiv. This event only happens once a year, so hurry up!
Travelers from various parts of Ukraine and the world come to Rakhiv for one day, turning this town into a colorful mix of events and interesting people. People dressed in national clothes taste different types and kinds of cheese, buy lizhnyk blankets made of sheep’s wool, wooden and leather souvenirs, embroidered items, dance to melodies of violins, tambourines, drums and Ukrainian tsymbaly.
Trembitas (Ukrainian horns) and Hutsul ethnic bands from nearby villages open the festival. The program also includes concerts, games and competitions.
By the way, the Hutsul trembita is one of the longest musical instruments in the world. It is made of wood that was struck by thunder. This is why its sound is as powerful as thunder. Hutsuls believe that the soul of the Carpathians lives in the trembita. Its sound traditionally informed about the most important events in the life of mountaineers: births, deaths, weddings, sending sheep to the mountain meadow for grazing.
Last year, the national record of Ukraine was set at the cheese festival in Rakhiv, when 56 trembitas were played at the same time. The age of the musicians who participated in the record ranges from 6 to 80 years.
However, it is gastronomic attractions that play a key role at this event. There are dozens of types of sheep cheese and no less a variety of delicacies made with it. According to Rakhiv locals, traditional Hutsul dishes are easy to prepare but very nutritious and delicious. Every year more than 100 local producers offer to taste their products at the festival. So guests have many options to choose from.
The main types of Hutsul cheese: bryndza, vurda, budz are unique national products that attract with their unique taste. Seems like all sheep have the same milk, and locals make cheeses by the same recipies, but bryndza has a different taste in every village, at every shepherd’s. After all, making cheese is a real art, the secrets of which are passed down from generation to generation. These cheeses differ in color, taste, structure, and cooking technology.
Interestingly, to make 10 kg of cheese you need to collect milk from two hundred sheep. It is believed that this is exclusively a task for men. According to mountaineers, bryndza gives masculine strength, locals call it “Hutsul Viagra”. The collected milk must be filtered through pine branches into a wooden tub.
First, fresh milk is heated to a temperature of 36 degrees and glag (rennet enzyme made from the ventricle of a dairy calf) is added. After that, it turns sour, cheese clots are formed. They are whipped by hand, wrapped in gauze and hung out to strain and compress. This is the recipe for making budz. It is smoked, resulting in a thick brown crust. Budz is stored in huts on shelves, covered with burlap.
Later, budz is finely ground with salt, so it turns into cheese, which is stored in wooden barrels. So true Hutsul bryndza is crumbly and salty. Salt, by the way, is a natural preservative that preserves the product for several months and, if necessary, years.
To the whey left after cooking budz (bryndza) locals also add fresh milk and put it on fire. This kind of cheese is called vurda. It is also formed into pieces, but they are not so elastic and easily fall apart. Vurda is tender and seems to melt in your mouth, a little similar to Italian ricotta.
Rakhiv region is a land of folk craftsmen and talents, where Hutsul art and culture are closely intertwined with other cultures and languages. The festival demonstrates the best traditions of Rakhiv Hutsul region: the life, traditions, hospitality, and crafts of mountaineers.
Get to know the local culture and food at the Rakhiv cheese festival with us!