Obatzda is the creamy German cheese spread you’ll find all over Munich.
The best recipes in any food culture trace back to folks figuring out creative ways to use leftovers. On a recent trip to Bavaria in Germany we discovered a great example of this in Obatzda (OH-bats-duh), Bavaria’s version of pimiento cheese and the ideal snack with cold German beer, or any beer or cocktail. It’s a blend of “leftover” everyday cheeses, butter, seasonings, and maybe a splash of beer for spreadability. We had it everywhere and at every meal. Obatzda was always included on the famous biergarten platters of sliced cold cuts, liverwurst, cheeses, sausages, pickles, radishes, and freshly grated horseradish that we seemed to consume daily with foamy helles and dunkel lagers, weissbier, and pilsners. In fact, we can’t remember one breakfast buffet or traditional brauhaus restaurant where it wasn’t served.
Forget the mayo and cheddar cheese, obatzda is a combination of camembert (German or French), sometimes a soft German cheese called romadur or any kind of soft fresh cheese like cream cheese or farmer’s cheese, blended with butter, a heavy dose of paprika, maybe a little grated fresh onion, caraway seeds, and a splash of German beer.
You really don’t need a recipe to mix up some obatzda. Like pimiento cheese, just start mixing it up with what you have on hand, tasting as you go until you have a good spreading consistency and you like it. The orange color comes from paprika, not the cheese. It’s an actual flavor component, so find a good sweet Hungarian paprika, not one from the back of the cupboard that’s been dusting deviled eggs for the five years. Fresh onion is often incorporated; however, we serve the onion in slivers on the side so folks can add it as they like.
Serve obatzda like the Bavarians spooned onto a wooden platter with a variety of meats, sausages, cheeses, and condiments. Slather it on rye or brown bread, pretzels, or crackers. All this makes a great cold spread for a party, one we’ll surely be recreating for the Super Bowl, or a worthy addition to your grilled brats menu.
Amid the current confusion in the beer aisle with so many competing domestic microbrews, it’s not easy to spot the Olde World classics. Look for Munich names like Polaner, Lowenbrau, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrauhaus, and Spaten. And, as of early 2019 some very good American-brewed German-style Pilsners and Kolschs are showing up. These beer styles make congenial food companions and, for the Olde World brands, they’ve been around so long they have absolutely nothing to prove. Prost!
- 8 ounces camembert or brie, room temperature, rind removed and cut into cubes
- 4 ounces softened cream cheese or farmer’s cheese
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened (or more butter and less cream cheese)
- 1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika (you can use part spicy Hungarian paprika or a dash of cayenne if you like, but not Spanish smoked paprika)
- Ground white pepper and salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh onion, optional
- 1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds, optional
- Splash of beer, cream, or sour cream, as needed for consistency
- Fresh chives and thin slivers of red onion for garnish
Combine the cheeses, butter and seasonings in a bowl and blend with a sturdy fork. If it seems too thick, add a little beer, cream, or sour cream, as needed. Garnish with fresh chives and red onion. Serve with crackers, pretzels, dark rye bread and, of course, delicious German beer.