One of the stars of Polish cuisine is 'oscypek', and we encountered it everywhere, being sold from stalls and open-air markets throughout our visit to Zakopane.

Oscypek is a salty, smoky, chewy cheese (a decent chunk squeaks against your teeth when you bite it) that has been has been made from sheep's milk by Tatra mountain highlanders for centuries. Production methods are often carefully guarded family secrets, passed on through the generations, but essentially, a mass of raw cheese is pressed into wooden, spindle-shaped forms carved into decorative shapes. The forms are then placed in a brine-filled barrel for a night or two, after which they are placed close to the roof in a special wooden hut and cured in hot smoke for up to two weeks.

Unfortunately, oscypek threatens to become a casualty if the European Union prevails, since methods of making it tend to be primitive and members of the EU must meet a number of strict hygienic standards which do not include the rural simplicity under which oscypek has been processed for centuries.


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