Highlander food is not very fancy, but it has something, that attracts people and arouse their curiosity. It’s good to know, that because of cilmate’s conditions and infertile ground everyday life beneath Tatras was really tough. Cultivation anything more than potatoes and cerals was almost impossible. In addition to this, daily hard work required big amount of calories, highlanders needed to be strong and robust to cope with everyday challenges.
Because of all that, traditional highlander cuisine was caloric and was based only on a few ingredients, that different dishes were made of. These were mainly potatoes, flour, cabbage and animal fat. The meat was eaten only for holidays and important familiy events, and sheeps cheese, were usually intended for sale, they weren’t eaten daily.
Highlanders didn’t bake a bread and ate it rarely – it was replaced by cakes and noodles made of potatoes. Highlanders ate dairy as well: it was usually buttermilk, curd or regional drink żętyca.
The most popular cheese in Tatras region, and in whole Poland. Oscypki are made only in shepherd’s huts during the summer grazing. They have special EU certificate ‘Protected Geographical Indication’, which means, that production of oscypki is made only in set area. The name oscypek is reserved and refers only to cheese, made with traditional methods. If you’re buying oscypki and they don’t have the sign ‘Protected Geographical Indication’, it means, that they’re not traditional oscypki. It’s good to know this, as many people try to sell ‘highlander cheese’, which looks as oscypki, but they’re not them.
Oscypek (singular form of oscypki) is a hard, smoked cheese made of sheeps’ milk, sometimes with addition of cows’ milk (not more than 40%). The cheese is made of the pulp that is left during bundz production (bundz is another kind of highlander cheese). This pulp is blanched with hot water until it’s plastic and then it’s squeezed an formed. Characteristic pattern is made by using a special mold. Oscypek is soaked in brine and smoked above bonfire. To produce one cheese, that weights 600-800 grams, you need to use about 7 litres of sheeps’ milk.
Is a smaller form of oscypek (weights not more than 500 grams), it has cylinder shape.
Small cheese from sheeps’ milk, made in wooden molds in the shape of animals or hearts. Redykołka can be smoked or not (then it’s white). Tradition says, that shepherds gave this cheese to people, during local holiday called redyk, when they came back with their sheeps from glades in autumn.
It’s a white sheep cheese, similar to cottage cheese, it has a little bit sweet taste. The cheese ripens with time and become a little bit sour.
This cheese is made from salted and ground riped bundz. It’s salty, sometimes a little bit sour or spicy. Bryndza was the first cheese that was approved as a regional product and got a EU certificate.
It’s traditional smoked cheese, with delicate flavour. It’s often mistakenly taken as oscypek, as they’re very similar. But gołka is less salty and has less intensive favour. It’s made of cows’ milk.
They’re always present during family events, especially during weddings. The’re made of cows’ milk and they look like pasta’s threads. They have delicate falvour, not so salty as sheep cheese. Korboce can be smoked or not.
It’s really popular soup, that you need to taste during your stay in Zakopane or Podhale. It’s on the Polish List of Traditional Products , it has really intensive sour and salty flavour, it’s a little bit spicy and soild. It’s made of pickled cabbage and meat (one or two kinds): mutton or pork, often with smoked rib. Original kwaśnica is eaten with potatoes (that should be boiled separately, not in the soup!) or with bread – no other vegetables (like carrots) can be added.
It’s regional dish from highlander cuisine, but it’s extremely rarely served in restaurants and inns, probably because of it’s unattractive character, but if you have an opportunity, you should try it. Basic version is made by boiling the flour in salty water and when the pulp becomes more dense, it should be placed in bowl and mixed. Then some fat is added: lard, backfat, sometimes butter. Sometimes during bowling, buttermilk or whey where added.
Very tasty, warming and a little bit forgotten highlander soup. Czosnianka in Polish means the soup made of garlic (‘czosnek’ means ‘garlic’). It’s made of potatoes, big amount of garlic, onion and mint. Some salt and lard is sometimes added.
Cakes and noodles
Placek po zbójnicku
It’s kind of potatoe cake, served with goulash. Very popular dish, that you can taste in almost every inn. It’s traditional food of highlanders’ cuisine, but now it’s popular in many Polish regions. It’s similar to Hungarian cake, what shows how big infuence Hungarian tradition had to highlander culture.
If you’re in Podhale Region, you should try moskole, which are traditional cakes, baked on griddle. As tradition says, they’re came to Tatras from Russia during the I WW, together with Russian people, that in Poland were called Moskale (from their capital, Moscov).
They’re made of boiled potatoes, flour, water and salt. The dough should be well formed to small cakes, and then, baked on griddle. It’s good to know, that original moskole are baked only on big griddle, never in the oven or frying pan. Well prepared moskole should have a little bit crispy crust and soft center. They’re the best with garlic butter and a pinch of salt.
A little bit forgotten noodles made of grated potatoes, salt and flour. Raw potatoes should be grated and left for some time, so they could release some water, called krochmal. Then, the potatoe pulp should be squeezed and some flour should be added. To get dense pulp, we can add some krochmal. We take small portions of the pulp and put them on the boiling water. Hałuski are served with cheese or fat.
Dziadki ze spyrkom
It’s another variation about cakes and potatoes 🙂 Potatoes need to be boiled and during boiling we should add some flour, to get not so dense pulp. We boil it a few minutes, and then we should tamp it and form noodles. We put them into the bowl and add some melted smoked backfat.
In traditional highlander cuisine meat dishes were prepared really seldom – during holidays and family events, e.g. weddings. The base of this dishes was, of course, the easiest available meat: mutton and lamb, sometimes pork. Because those kinds of meat are not very popular right now, if you’re in Zakopane, you should try mutton or lamp roast.
Another popular dish is highlander pork leg – it’s something special for meat fans. It’s really solid and non dietetic 🙂 But during stay in Tatras it’s hard to resist.
As some kind of alternative for traditional meats, we can recommend highlander trout. It’s fried and then baked with cream sauce, it’s really delicious.
Previously, desserts and sweet cakes were prepared only for hilidays. Now, highlanders desserts are a little bit modified and they’re often not traditional highlander pastries, but they’re still worth trying. We recommend yeasty cakes (called hrube baby), highlander kremarz, which is a cake with honey and cream, highlander apple pie and kalach.
It’s traditional highlander drink, in local dialect called zyntyca. It’s a drink made of sheep milk during the cheese production. Fresh żętyca is a little bit sweet, and when it stays several days, it becomes more sour. Highlanders claim, that żętyca is a remedial drink, which gives them strength. Żętyca is on the Polish List of Traditional Products and we can try it only in shepherds’ huts during the sheeps grazing.
Have you already tried any highlander dish? Which one did you like the most? What dish would you like to try? Share your opinion in comment!