Bebeselea mountain farm

by admin on 10/06/2013

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About 30 km west of Sibiu, the village of Jina is located at the foothills of the Cindrel mountains, being part of the ethnographic area called Marginimea Sibiului also known as “the Land of the Cheese” being renowned for producing various types of cheese. Although some local shepherds found greener pastures elsewhere (no pun intended) and didn’t return, there are still many mountain farms in active use, called coliba, in Jina.

After having tasted the obligatory homemade spirits at the home of the Bebeselea family, we were brought by tractor and cart by Ion Bebeselea on a muddy and slippery road up to their mountain farm located on a hillside overlooking a lovely valley, having a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside and being surrounded by meadows.

The mountain farm was quite homely with a large bedroom and a  kitchen with a large dining room, but considering that they have to milk their cows twice daily all year, it’s really understandable that they need it. They also had a small dairy, a barn for the cows and another one for the calves together with a pigsty and a shed for their chickens.

Cornelia told my guide that the cows produce more milk when she’s milking the cows than when her husband does it. Thus, she and her youngest daughter Mariana were milking the cows together, both their own and some cows belonging to some elderly villagers who prefer to stay in the village. After having milked all the cows and one donkey, her husband brought the milk to the dairy above the barn (husbands have to do something, haven’t they?). Having poured all the milk through a filter into a container and having added rennet in order to separate the fat and the  liquid parts of the milk, we went to their kitchen where Cornelia prepared an abundant meal for us consisting of their own cheese, polenta, bread,  water for drinking and the always indispensable home-made spirits. In general, Romanians are very hospitable and it seems like they love to serve their guests plenty of food and at least two shots of their home-made spirits.

After having finished our meal, the milk was ready to be turned into cheese. As always, this consists of bringing the fat parts into another container and getting rid of the liquid parts by means of compressing and gravity. The first one is done by putting the cheese mass in a porous cloth and compressing the cheese mass, while the last one is done by letting the cheese mass stay put and letting the liquid parts flow downwards into another container. Often, weights are put on top of the cheese mass in order to speed up this process. Cornelia did this expertly and after having put the cheese in the storage room, her husband brought the remaining liquid to the piglets where it was consumed quickly and noisily. The cheese would be sold at markets in Bucharest and Galati in the autumn.

Initially, Cornelia and Ion had bought the mountain farm themselves and gradually expanded their property by buying up adjacent land. They receive subsidies for each cow from the state and also for each hectare of land they own.

As regards scything the meadows, workers from other parts of Romania come to Jina and Ion employs them for whatever time is required.

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