The origins of cheese pre-dates recorded history but one of the earliest archaeological evidence of cheese production in 5,500 BC is from Kujawy in Poland.
Ser is the Polish word for cheese.
Unlike in France, Poland does not have dozens of varieties of cheese.
There are basically three types of cheese in Poland – white, yellow and smoked.
White cheese is made from curd cheese.
Twaróg is the name for curd cheese and is the most important cheese for cooking in Poland both for savoury and sweet dishes.
It is often known as ser wiejski – village cheese.
This is the cheese that both sets of my grandparents would make on a very regular basis.
Twaróg is made from soured milk and can be classified as a fresh acid-set cheese or as a fermented milk product. The soured milk is poured into muslin clothes and then hung up to separate the solid curds from the whey. This results in the traditional wedge shape.
Rennet is not used in its production.
In German it is called Qwark, in Dutch it is called Kwark and is similar to the French Fromage frais.
It is similar to yoghurt cheese which is made from strained yoghurt.
Soured milk and yoghurt are both produced by the action of bacteria in milk.
However it is mesophile (moderate temperature loving) bacteria which produce soured milk and thermophile(higher temperature loving) bacteria which produce yoghurt. What that means is that soured milk is naturally prevalent in cooler climates than yoghurt.
There is evidence of soured milk production in 10,000BC and yoghurt production in 6,000BC.
Twaróg is used extensively in Polish cookery both savoury & sweet.
Recipes using Twaróg will feature in many of my future posts.
Yellow cheese is hard cheese and although there are several varieties they are very much like the Dutch cheeses such as Edam and Gouda.
Smoked cheese – the most famous is from the Tatra Mountains and it is made from sheep’s milk – it is called Oscypek.
This cheese has been made from the 15th Century.
The curds are pressed into wooden decorative shapes.
It has a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin.
Some scenes of the Tatra Mountains
Zakopane is a much visited town in the Tatra mountains. Its name means dug in and it is in at the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains.
Wooden houses typical of Zakopane
Oscypek – smoked cheese – from the Tatra Mountains – is often served grilled with cranberry or lingonberry jam.
Oscypek for sale in the streets of Zakopane
Górale – Highlanders – Shepherds from the Tatra Mountains
World Cheese Production
Some Very surprising Statistics
If anyone had asked me about world cheese production before I started this post, I would have guessed that the biggest producer in Europe was France or maybe The Netherlands. I would have been very wrong!
Looking at the figures for 2011 & 2013 for World Cheese Production in metric tonnes I found that –
The top 6 in both these years are as follows:
- United States of America
Also the United Kingdom does not feature in the top 10 at all.
Thinking about this, I of course realised that here in The United Kingdom many of the cheeses for sale are imported many from France and The Netherlands.
In recent years Polish cheeses are appearing not only in the many Polish shops in the United Kingdom but also in some of the regular supermarkets.