Polish Tatra Cheese




rare mean (4) connect (3)
hut pattern run/ran/run (2)
version these days handmade
smoky authentic make/made/made
region shepherd pass down
among no matter go/went/gone
secret dozen (2) broke from the mold
passion imagine break/broke/broken
dry off cunning on his own
flexible tradition become/became/become
sacred authentic take care of
grass concern eat/ate/eaten
care pass (4) take/took/taken
boil field (2) master (2)
copper taste (3) get/got/got
curdle press (2) all the time
hand require take off (3)
way wooden bring/brought/brought
soak thing (3) generation
unique place (2) shelf/shelves
kettle smoke (2) handmade
mold long time pass down
dry/dried generation to generation






Janina Rzepka, Master Oscypek Maker: “Oscypek cheese is rare these days, and it’s only available here. Oscypek means everything to us. Running the shepherd’s hut, running the farm, is our passion.

We are connected to them our whole lives.”

Since the 15th century, the Tatra Mountains in Poland have been home to a very special type of handmade cheese, oscypek.

Authentic versions of this milky, smoky cheese are only made in this region, usually in batsuvkas cheese huts.

And Janina is one of its makers. She is a baca.

Janina Rzepka, Master Oscypek Maker: “My name is Janina Rzepka, and I’m a baca. Among several dozen master bacas, I’m the only female who runs a shepherd’s hut, pastures sheep and makes oscypek.”

In oscypek tradition, its maker is usually a man, and the secret process is passed down from father to son. However, Janina broke from the mold, becoming one of the only female masters.

Janina Rzepka, Master Oscypek Maker: “I learned how to make oscypek from my husband. But he didn’t learn it from his father: he learned it on his own by secretly watching it made by other bace.

And I, as a cunning country woman, did the same thing. I was secretly watching how my husband was making the cheese.

My day starts very early and ends very late. First, in the morning, you have to go to the field and milk the sheep.”

And this milk is sacred for authentic oscypek, which requires at least 60 percent sheep’s milk. Everything from the grass they eat to how cold they get is a concern for Janina and those who help her.

Janina Rzepka, Master Oscypek Maker: “We take care of the sheep no matter what weather we have. We are with them all the time.

We bring the milk to the hut. Then, we boil the milk in this copper kettle. Then the milk must curdle for an hour.

Everything is done by hand. There is no mechanical way to do it.

We press it in hot water a few times and, when it’s flexible enough, we make the patterns using wooden molds. We take the molds off, put the cheese in cold water to cool and then we soak them in a salt bath.

The big, traditional oscypek has to soak in salt water for about twenty-four hours.

Then, you bring it outside. It has to dry off, and then it is placed on shelves to be smoked.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

There is no taste like oscypek; it is unique because it is handmade.

Oscypek has always been made by people here in the Tatra Mountains. It has been here for such a long time.

It’s passed down from generation to generation. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


Blue Cheese. Handmade oscypek cheese is becoming more common in Poland and the rest of Europe. True or false?

Parmesan Cheese. Is it made throughout Poland and neighboring countries?

Mozzarella Cheese. In the Tatra Mountains of Poland, men tend flocks of sheep, while women milk them and make oscypek cheese. Is this right or wrong?

Cottage Cheese. Did Janina Rzepka learn the art of oscypek cheese making from her mother?

Dairy Cream. Can any milk from any animal, raised in enclosures and fed corn, soybeans, sunflower be used to make authentic oscypek cheese?

Yogurt. Do the bacas use dairy machinery from Switzerland?

Kefir, Ayran. What are some ingredients in making oscypek cheese?

Ice-Cream. Does Janina want to eventually change careers and work in an office with computers?
Butter, Ghee. I have seen and tasted oscypek cheese. Yes or no? Would you like to taste some oscypek cheese?

Milkshake. Are cheese and other dairy products popular in your region and country? What are some popular or common dairy products?

Buttermilk. Is there a long tradition of cheese making? Are there cheese festivals, exhibitions and celebrations?

Curds and Whey. My friends and I would like to make cheese or other dairy products as a full-time profession.

Cheddar Cheese. What might happen in the future?

Swiss Cheese. Should people, businesses and governments do anything regarding (traditional) cheese?

Comments are closed.