What Is Obatzda?

Paul Scott

Obatzda is a savory Bavarian cheese delicacy made by smoothly blending a combination of aged, soft cheese, butter, and seasonings. The result is a delectable concoction with a consistency similar to heavy cream cheese which is traditionally spread on bread or pretzels as a biergarten, or beer garden, snack. The cheese in Obatzda is usually ripe Camembert or Romadur although any soft, well aged cheese may be used. The seasonings added to the cheese and butter base include black pepper, salt, and paprika. Finely chopped onions, chives, and garlic are also frequently included according to taste.

Paprika is commonly used to season obatzda.
Paprika is commonly used to season obatzda.

In the early spring, the German outdoor culture shakes off the cobwebs of winter and begins to ready itself for the balmy days, and nights, of summer. Much of the outdoor action during this period takes place at the biergarten or beer garden. Apart from masses of good company, good music and, of course, good beer, there is always a decadent spread of homemade snacks and side dishes on offer at the average beer garden. One of the most popular of these is the Obatzda, a quintessential beer garden side dish which may be found on most biergarten tables across Germany.

Black pepper can be an ingredient in obatzda.
Black pepper can be an ingredient in obatzda.

This Bavarian delicacy is essentially a very rich, and sometimes very pungent, creamed cheese dip and topping. The Obatzda base is a combination of two thirds soft, aged cheese, and one third butter. Traditionally the cheese component is Camembert, the riper the better, but this may be tempered to cater for the less adventurous pallet by combining the Camembert with Romadur or Limburger. The cheese is combined with the butter to form a thick, smooth paste with the consistency of a heavy cream cheese. At this point, individual tastes take over with the addition of various fresh herbs, vegetables, and seasonings.

Traditionally most Obatzda bases are seasoned with sweet or hot paprika, black pepper, and salt. The paprika gives the paste a characteristic saffron to red hue and adds to the unmistakable taste of the dish. According to local beer garden traditions or personal preference, finely chopped onions, chives, garlic, scallions, cumin, or caraway seeds may find their way into the mix. Obatzda is then served in bowl to be spread on the wide range of breads or to be dipped with the ubiquitous beer garden pretzel.

The cheese spread lends itself well to experimentation with its ingredients. The very outgoing ripe cheeses may be substituted with less aggressive varieties, and the possible list of seasonings and vegetables which can be added is almost endless. The traditional Obatzda is, however, still the best accompaniment to a salty pretzel and an ice cold Dunkles bier if one wants to capture the magical essence of the German biergarten.

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