We’ve had relatives visiting from Slovakia this summer, and they came laden with gifts. Above, smuggled through airport security was korbáčiky, my favorite salty sheep’s cheese that comes in long rolls of string. There are two varieties – smoked and un-smoked; this is the latter. The cheese is still sold today by shepherds along the roadside.
There is a Slovak joke about how this cheese is made: first, you dunk the ball of freshly made sheep cheese in hot water, and then pull it apart into two pieces. Then you spit into your hands, and roll each piece on your thighs, into thin strings (this is supposed to gross people out, which it usually does). It’s funnier told in person with hand animations, and I’m told even funnier in Slovak.
I was lucky enough to see this cheese made the traditional way at the Chalet Krajinka near Ruzomberok in the Lower Liptov region of Slovakia, and you do indeed dip the sheep’s milk in hot water before rolling it.
Korbáčiky is also often braided, and it was amazing to watch the women braid and twist at lightning speed.
Some people find Korbáčiky too salty – soaking it in hot water before eating it helps cut the salt. And placing it in boiling water for 10 or 20 seconds melts it back into a ball. Korbáčiky is best eaten fresh, but if you want to keep it a while and savor it slowly, like I must with my illicit gift, then freeze it and cut off chunks as needed. Mailing it via postal service to yourself from Slovakia is not a good idea, as my travel partner discovered when the stinky package arrived a month later.
Most of these pictures were taken by Lily Shuster, my favorite travel partner, cheese mailer and aunt extraordinaire. Aunt Lily, I didn’t even tell you Josef brought this cheese on his visit. But I’ve had my fill and your brother Jerry has the remains in his possession.