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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » October 31, 2013
Regional and Traditional Products
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Ser Gazdowski/Gołka: Mountain Farmer’s Cheese
October 31, 2013   
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This cheese is made wholly from cow’s milk in two Polish provinces: Małopolska and Silesia. The product is a part of the traditions and history of the Beskidy Mountains in southern Poland, and the production method has continued unchanged to this day.

Ser gazdowski is commonly referred to as gołka or pucok. The origins of the cheese’s name are still up for debate. Some say gołka comes from the word gazda (mountain farmer), while other sources claim the name comes from the way the cheese looks—like a piece of wood, which is gołka in highland dialect.

The tradition of making the cheese came to villages in the Beskidy Mountains together with Wallachian culture. In the past, the cheese was only made in the fall and winter, when sheep’s milk was not available. Today it is made all year round.

Ser gazdowski is slightly salty and has a smoky aroma. It is made from cow’s milk only, which ensures a delicate flavor. It is shaped like a cylinder with embossed patterns. The size of the cheese depends on where it was made. In the western part of the Beskidy Mountains the cheese comes in smaller blocks, measuring 8 to 15 cm and weighing up to 200 grams. To the east, the cheese gets bigger, with blocks measuring 6 to 15 cm but weighing from 300 grams even up to 600 grams. The shape comes from the wooden molds in which the cheese is pressed. The inside is uniform, soft and elastic. In cross-section the cheese is yellowish in color, slightly darker next to the light-brown rind. Unlike oscypek and other kinds of sheep’s milk cheese, ser gazdowski/gołka is not smoked in shepherds’ huts but in smokehouses next to farmers’ homes.

Initially, cheese was made from cow’s milk by farmers for their own families, but it gained popularity over time. Production was influenced by the fact that ewes could only be milked for a short period, just a few months a year, and by the need to use up excess cow’s milk. Smoked cheese turned out to be the perfect solution. Ser gazdowski was made for weddings, family celebrations as well as parish fairs. Ser gazdowski was often given away as a gift during celebrations of all kinds of official occasions.

Using the traditional recipe, the milk to make the cheese has to be heated to 36-37 degrees Celsius and then rennet is added. Next, the cheese has to be kneaded well and scalded with water, and finally formed into shapes. A traditional gołka should be formed in a wooden mold (puciera) and then smoked.

Ser gazdowski is made at a great many mountain farms all over the Carpathians, especially in Beskid Żywiecki, Beskid ¦l±ski and the Podhale region. Ser gazdowski is an important element of the Beskidy Mountains’ tradition and history.
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