Maltese Gbejna cheese aims for EU protection mark

The proposal to acquire the EU status of Protected Designation of Origin for the ġbejna states that it can only be called ġbejna if it's made of whole milk from 'Maltese' sheep

If successful, the gbejna will be the first Maltese foodstuff to acquire the prestigious EU status of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
If successful, the gbejna will be the first Maltese foodstuff to acquire the prestigious EU status of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

It will only be called a ġbejna if it is made of whole milk from ‘Maltese’ sheep, a proposal to offer EU protection to the traditional delicacy suggests.

The proposal to acquire the EU status of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for the ġbejna (and its plural ġbejniet) was put forward by Xirka Produtturi Nagħaġ u Mogħoż last week.

If successful, it will be the first Maltese foodstuff to acquire the prestigious EU mark. Any cheese product can only be called ġbejna if it satisfies set criteria that apply to the raw material and the finished product.

Products such as Roquefort cheese from France, Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy and the Greek feta cheese, enjoy PDO status because of the manner by which they are produced and the region where.

The Maltese application describes the ġbejna as a fresh cheese produced with “whole raw milk from sheep of the ‘Maltese’ breed and its crosses with the Friesian breed” that are registered in Malta, Gozo and Comino.

The proposal designates three types of ġbejna: the ġbejna friska, which is sold fresh; the ġbejna niexfa, which is air-dried; the ġbejna tal-bżar, which is pickled and peppered.

It also details the traditional methods by which the ġbejna is produced and the physical and chemical characteristics of the individual products and the raw material used.

The milk for the ġbejna has to be produced in Malta by a type of Maltese sheep or cross breeds. The proposal even gives a description of the animals.

The proposal has been put up for public consultation by the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority and will remain open until 15 April.

Calling it a gbejna: the criteria

Ġbejna friska: White and glossy, with a fresh and soft core, and its surface takes the shape of the motifs of the mould in which it is processed. It appears as a truncated cone of small dimensions… Total protein should range between 15% and 20%, while the total fat should range between 15% and 20%. It should have an acidulous taste typical of sheep milk.

Ġbejna niexfa: A firmer consistency and varies in colour from white to off white to very light straw colour; the yellowish taint increases, and the parameters vary, as the drying and storage period increases. It should weigh between 30g to 50g… The total solid content should range between 40% and 56% while total fat should range between 25% and 40%.

Ġbejna tal-bżar: Presents itself with a varying amount of fine to rough ground crushed black pepper attached to its surface. It should weigh between 30g to 50g… total solid content should range between 37% and 52% while total fat should range between 25% and 40%.

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