Olsztyn – with love for… cheese

Polish dairy industry produces about one hundred types of cheese. How many of them were presented by dairy companies at Olsztyn Cheese Festival – no one counted, but now it is clear which type of cheese is the king of Polish households, and which one turned out to be this year’s hit.

On 23-24 September, Olsztyn hosted the 2nd edition of Polish Festival of Cheese and Quark.  It was organized by Chair of Dairy Science and Quality Management at the Faculty of Food Sciences at the University of Warmia and Mazury, and by National Association of Dairy Cooperatives. As many as twenty one exhibitors took part in the festival, including fifteen producers and six companies working in cheesemaking and dairy industries.

– We did not count how many types of cheese and quark there were at the stalls, but all major Polish producers were represented. They brought a large number of their products indeed – says Prof. Bogusław Staniewski, the Dean of the Faculty of Food Sciences, the organizer of the festival.

According to the organizers, as many as five thousand people took part in the festival. It proves an immense success, especially given that Olsztyn media do not appreciate this nice event, as they can see no connection between cheese and our town. However, the crowds were grateful for organizers’ efforts, who in turn, treated the participants absolutely generously. Every guest was welcome to try as many types of cheese and quark as they wished. There was also a stall with free cheese dishes, which gained much interest of the guests, who formed a long line in order to try them.

The organizers also came up with the idea of an expert’s stall, where guests could get information on, for example, various types of cheese, differences between them, on how to recognize if cheese was correctly traced, which would be the best choice, and what nutritional values of dairy products are. The expert who gave advice at this year’s edition of the festival was Prof. Arnold Reps, the author of several cheese formulas.

There was also “the cheesemaniacs street” – a set of activities for children, including various games and contests with awards, all connected with dairy products. “Cheesemaniacs” were entertained by students from the Faculty of Food Sciences. Children had the opportunity to take part in laboratory mini-show, where they could conduct milk examination, obtain information about the process of milk and butter production, and take a close look at equipment and technological accessories. Furthermore, a group of students – members of Scientific Club of Dairy Technologists at the Faculty of Food Sciences, organized a tasting under the slogan: “Cheese in cooking and gastronomy”.

The guests could also go to a photographic exhibition and screenings that explored secrets of the industrial production of ripened cheese and the highest-quality quark.
The festival reached the climax with the announcement of the results of a consumer vote and a contest on the best cheese and quark.

A selection board of experts awarded the title of “Cheese Hit” to Mini Mozzarella of Regional Dairy Cooperative in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, and “Quark Hit” to Garwolin quarks of Regional Dairy Cooperative in Garwolin.
As far as the title of “Cheese King” is concerned, the festival guests awarded as many as fourteen of the titles, each one in different category. The “Quark King” went to six types of quark. So which type of cheese and quark is the best in Poland?

– The one you like the most – Prof. Reps explains.

The Rector of UWM also gave his own award to OBRAM Company from Olsztyn, due to its innovative and comprehensive development of cheese and quark production lines. The Dean’s Cup, an award from the Dean of the Faculty of Food Sciences, went to POLMLEK for the innovation of dairy products.

– How did it happen that the only cheese festival in Poland was organized in Olsztyn? Why this place in particular?

– A few years ago, I was at the biggest cheese festival in Europe, in a town called Bra (Italy). The whole town was filled with stalls, and it really was a huge event that gathered crowds of people from all around the world. I was so impressed by this festival that I wished to organize such an event in Poland, too. The choice of place was obvious for me – it could only be Olsztyn – says Waldemar Broś, the President of the National Association of Dairy Cooperatives.

–Why Olsztyn?

– Because at Olsztyn University there is a 70-year-old Chair of Dairy Science and there are excellent professors with significant scientific achievements. Because there are solid companies working in dairy industry, and there are technological conditions for hosting such an event. And besides that, this region is highly important in milk production – Prof. Broś enumerates.
For the next cheese festival in Olsztyn – we need to wait a year.

Annually, Polish dairy industry produces over 800.000 tons of cheese, including 300.000 tons of hard cheese. Quark constitutes the rest of the production. In terms of hard cheese production, Poland is 6th in the world, right after: the USA, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Concerning quark production, Poland is ranked 1st  in the world. An average Pole eats up 4,5 kg of cheese annually. A person from France, Italy, the Netherlands and  Denmark – about 25-30kg. As much as 80% of cheese produced in Poland consists of Dutch type cheese (Gouda, Edam, Blue, Camembert). The rest of the produced cheese belongs to Swiss type (Emmental, sweeter ones, with bigger holes). In fact, on the market there are only 4-5 types of cheese made with the same recipes. Diverse taste of various types of cheese results from different kinds of milk in particular regions, and…trade names.

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