1 oscypek (if you cannot get oscypek you can use other oscypek-like hard mountain salty and smoked cheeses which you can buy on Polish food markets in the south of Poland, food stores in Poland and sometimes food stores with Polish items in other countries)
8 tablespoons lingonberry preserves (you can replace by cranberry preserves) - for the recipe for the preserves click here.
Cut oscypek into 1 cm slices.
Heat a frying pan, fry the slices on both sides, until it starts melting and getting a gold color.
Put the slices of cheese on warm plates and serve quickly with lingonberry preserves on top of each slice.
You can also grill the oscypek in your oven, using a baking sheet.
If you like bacon, it is also possible to roll a slice of oscypek into a thin slice of bacon and grill it until bacon becomes crispy.
I think that the oscypek and other oscypek-like mountain cheeses also taste delicious when eaten just cut into thin slices as an accompaniment to tartines, sandwiches and salads. You can shred it on your łazanki (type of Polish square noodles), pierogi or many other pasta and noodle-like dishes, including Polish “gnocchi”, various sorts of potato and vegetable pancakes and even fusion pizzas - whatever you like.
About a little mountaineer who did an international career
Except for the “bundz” and “bryndza”, oscypek is my favorite Polish cheese.
And maybe the only one known a bit abroad.
What is this oscypek?
It has a very characteristic long, doubled-edged conic shape with decorative patterns.
When you eat the cheese, it makes a particular noise in the mouth. It creaks. The taste is intense, salty and smoked. The inside structure is hard, but at the same time elastic.
As a small girl, I spent many summer holidays in the area of Białka Tatrzańska, now a big and overloaded touristic village close to the Tatry Mountains, in the Podhale region. I remember my parents and me visiting from time to time some shepherds’ wooden houses where different cheeses had traditionally been manufactured from the sheep’s and cow’s milk. Amongst them - oscypek - a cheese that made an international career in that sense that a few years ago it was registered within the EU system as a regional product. Now oscypek is a protected name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin geographical indication.
The best oscypek should only be made out of sheep’s milk; however current regulations allow for the addition of a certain amount of cow’s milk. It is still manufactured with traditional methods between May and October in some parts of southern Poland, mostly in Podhale.
The picture of oscypek presented in this blog was made in June last year, when I visited Poland.
How to do this cheese? Well, I am not a slow-foody expert and I do not know so much about production of cheeses in general. However, firstly the unpasterurized sheep's milk with addition of rennet is turned into a kind of curd. Such a cheese is then repeatedly rinsed with boiling water and squeezed. The cheese is pressed into wooden forms in decorative shapes. The forms are then placed in a barrel filled with brine for a day or two, after which they are placed close to the roof inside a special wooden hut and smoked for several days.
The first recorded recipe for oscypek was allegedly given in the XVIIIth Century; however remarks concerning cheese production had been made before.
But be careful: since registration within the EU system, it is difficult to find genuine oscypek as the population of sheep in Poland became lower and the cheese production expensive.
However, in many shops and local food markets in the south of Poland you can buy “oscypek-like” smoked cheeses. They contain much more cow milk or are made only from the latter. They are sold under the names of “gołka”, “mountain cheese” or “scypek” - the latter, in my opinion should not be allowed, as it is misleading.
Those cheeses have various shapes, and they cannot be named “oscypek”, although in practice everybody calls them exactly that name.
A lot of them also are tasty, so you can grill them as explained in this recipe.
Find out more about oscypek: