Olomouc Tvarůžky Cheese…. Proceed with Caution?
Every country has at least one item in it’s culinary catalog that the local culture likes to use to make visitors a bit nervous; usually it’s spoken about in such a way that the mere mention of its name comes across as ominous, or with a sly smile from the locals that will make the visitor feel they are being set up for a joke.
In the context of Czech cuisine, the aromatic and somewhat sharp tvarůžky cheese from the Olomouc region of North Moravia fits quite neatly into this category. The mention of the name draws a range of reactions from Czechs themselves never mind curious visitors. Some apply the old “It’s an acquired taste” descriptive to the cheese, others will simply say it stinks like old running shoes while others still will go so far as to say it’s wonderful and a trip to the Czech Republic is not complete without trying some.
It’s not unusual to find restaurants that have this delicacy on the menu, though I have been to a few where the menu says clearly that they only sell it in summer when they can serve it on their outdoor dining terraces.
So, hold your nose and let’s get a closer look at this “beast” of a cheese…
Origins and First Impressions
The first mention of the name “Tvarůžky” was in 1583, though it’s thought that the cheese has been around for some time longer than that. Its origin in farming country and early categorization as peasant food make its exact year of origin difficult to determine.
Its significance as a regional specialty earned it protected status internationally in 2010. That means true Tvarůžky only comes from the A.W. company of Loštice, which is just to the north west of Olomouc.
My first experience with this cheese was in a restaurant and I was left a bit underwhelmed as I had been expecting a smell that would probably make my nose hair fall out and make neighboring diners move one seat further away from me. Nothing of the sort happened. I thought perhaps I had simply not received particularly fresh cheese, I decided to try again.
I stopped at a supermarket one day on my way home from work and bought a package of five small rounds of the yellowish, translucent substance for further research….
Clear the Kitchen and Open a Window!
After taking a look at the impressive culinary flexibility of this cheese in the recipe section of its manufacturer’s website, I chose a simple option of chopped Tvarůžky on bread with cumin and paprika sprinkled over top and accompanied by a cold beer.
I opened the kitchen window and then proceeded to open the package of cheese. the smell was strong, but still not up to some of the more extreme descriptions I’d been given. It is pungent, but not utterly repelling; a somewhat spicy smell with a hint of saltiness is how I would describe it.
On its own, it tasted pretty much as I expected it would from the smell: robust and a bit sharp as well as a bit woody and salty. Nothing offensive or stomach turning.
Together with cumin and paprika on fresh bread and a beer on the side, it was quite a palatable and enjoyable midday snack which I would likely try again sometime.
Tvarůžky Likes You, Really!
One of the most interesting things I learned while putting this article together was what a clean and healthy product Tvarůžky is. In addition to being made completely without rennet, colourings, flavourings or stabilizers; it is high in protein and calcium while having a very low fat content.
Due to the above nutritional qualities, it is widely regarded as one of the healthiest cheese varieties available.
A nutritional overview, a variety of recipes and much more can be found at the A.W. company website: