This recipe for Obatzda is published in partnership with Normandy cheesemakers Le Rustique.
If you’ve spent any time in a Bavarian beergarden, you’ll probably be familiar with Obatzda, the thick, orange-coloured, Camembert-based spread (or dip) that’s a culinary staple in Germany’s largest state.
Also known as Obatzter, Obazda or Obazdn (there seems to be as much fighting over the name and its origins as there is over the recipe), Obatzda was invented in the 1920s by Katharina Eisenreich, the landlady of the famous Weihenstephaner brewery’s pub in Freising, Bavaria. Some suggest it was a way of using up old bits of cheese: the leftover soft rinds were mixed with butter to make a spread eaten with rye bread or pretzels. Together, they formed the basis of Brotzeit, a light meal or snack taken to sustain one between breakfast and lunch (or indeed lunch and dinner).
What’s in Obatzda?
In 2015, Obatzda was entered into the official register of the Protected Designations of Origin and Protected Geographical Indications of the European Commission (food geeks like me may like to have a look at the official document). The mandatory ingredients are listed as being at least 50% cheese (a ripe Camembert or Brie, plus for a stronger flavour, Limburger or Romadur, or for a milder one, cream cheese or quark), butter, paprika and salt.
There are, however, an infinite number of variations on the recipe. The most popular additions include caraway or cumin (either ground or whole seeds) and/or a finely-chopped onion, though you might want to avoid that if you’re keeping your Obatzda overnight in the fridge, as the onion will start to taste bitter. Many of the older recipes I’ve found also involve a raw egg.
The recipe below is a basic, mild version, with which you should feel free to experiment. Play around with the quantities of cheese and butter you use, and try out different seasonings, too – a little hot paprika along with (or instead of) the sweet, perhaps, and/or a good pinch of caraway. What is essential, however, is that you eat your Obatzda with some kind of bread. Try slices of a rye loaf, pretzels big and squidgy or crunchy and small, some fresh radishes and, ideally, a tall glass of Helles beer.
Obatzda recipe (serves 4)
250g good quality, very ripe Camembert at room temperature
100g cream cheese
50g soft butter
2 tbsp Weißbier (wheat beer) or milk
½-1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 small red onion, cut into rings
1 bunch radishes
Chopped fresh chives
Large, soft or small, crunchy pretzels
Cut the Camembert into small pieces and put into a bowl with the cream cheese and butter. Use a fork to mash them all together (a potato masher also does a good job) and mix to a smooth, spreadable consistency (it’s fine if there are still very small lumps of rind). Stir in the beer or milk to loosen the mixture a little, and then add the paprika till the Obatzda is your preferred shade of orange.
Put your Obatzda in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then scrape into a small serving dish, garnish with the onion and chives, and serve with the radishes and pretzels – and a nice cold glass of beer.