Top 5 Most Popular Slovak Cheeses
Traditional Slovak cheese is quite unique. Slovakia prides itself on producing special cheeses made from sheep’s, goat’s, and cow’s milk. Many of the cheeses produced here cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
While commercial production has certainly taken over in modern times, and a lot of recipes have been adopted from abroad, producers continue to use traditional recipes and production techniques, even though on a commercial scale. But these traditional recipes create the most popular and most sought after of Slovak cheeses.
1. Slovenská Ovčia Bryndza
Non-pasteurised sheep’s cheese products are truly a classic Slovak specialty, and bryndza is the most famous. It originates from Slovakia and is solely produced there. It is used extensively in traditional Slovak cuisine, and, in fact, it is an essential ingredient of bryndzové halušky, a popular national dish.
A soft, white cheese with a very specific, strong flavor, it is traditionally made by grinding ripened lumps of sheep’s cheese mixed with salt. The characteristic taste comes from a natural microflora contained in raw, non-pasteurized sheep’s milk and sheep’s cheese. You either love it or hate is, but bryndza is a must have when exploring the local cuisine.
2. Ovčie Parenice
Parenica is made from steamed sheep’s cheese. It is a single layer of cheese rolled up into a small roll of about 100 grams. It is a smoked cheese, giving the outside a golden yellow coating while the inside is creamy white with a soft, delicate taste.
In the European Union, Slovenská parenica is a protected trade name, with a 200 year old tradition behind it. Sadly, the producers who use traditional, handmade methods for making it are quickly disappearing, with only a few left using the original production techniques.
3. Ovčie korbáčiky
Korbáčik is a traditional handmade cheese originating from the Orava region of north Slovakia. It is made by pulling steamed cheese, usually made with cow’s milk though sheep’s milk can also be used, into long strips.
The cheese must have the right density and temperature. It has a soft but slightly salty taste and is a great appetiser with wine or beer. In the past, korbáčky was pulled exclusively by hand, but today it is done mainly by machine. Surprisingly, the difference in taste between the machine-drawn and hand-drawn product is quite profound.
In the village of Zázrivá, you can still buy real handmade Orava raw cheese strings from domestic producers.
4. Bačovský Oštiepok
Oštiepok is a product of sheep’s cheese. It was originally made by chopping fresh sweet cheese and pressing it into hand-carved, round wooden molds, where it is left to stand to take on its shape. Some molds are beautifully carved and make the cheese quite artistic.
It is then removed, immersed in warm salt water, then left to stand again until the salt penetrates it completely before drying. The taste is similar to korbáčky but it is harder and less salty.
5. Kozí syr
Goat’s cheese has an exceptional aroma, taste, and texture. It is a soft cheese with a creamy texture, very different from cow’s or sheep’s cheese. The higher concentration of fatty acids gives goat’s cheese its characteristic aroma and softer, creamier texture.
It is these properties that mean goat’s milk is best used for soft and semi-hard cheeses. With less protein, goat’s cheese is more fragile, so it can’t be processed in the same way as cow’s cheese; it would simply break down.
The fact that goat’s cheese is not so strong and is flexible is not a bad thing; it actually makes it more unique. The creamy texture makes it ideal for making very soft cheeses or yoghurts. Even the stronger versions of goat’s cheese never fully harden and remain partially soft.
Goat’s cheese also ripens much quicker, in just a few weeks. Interestingly, maturing goat’s cheese softens the aroma and taste, and it is perhaps one of the most aromatic cheeses. Some producers add spices to give even more flavor to this strong tasting cheese. Spiced goat’s cheese is a real culinary delicacy and very popular in Slovak kitchens, where it is used extensively.