There are several guides available. And so, you can explore the Małopolska region in different ways.
On the art of tasting Małopolska
The tastiest way I know is the one that follows regional products. They are a part of the local area and have been prepared with the heart for generations, where the recipes are often the greatest and most precious treasure of the local families, handed down from one generation to another. You won’t find them elsewhere, as they are closely linked to the place, the way they are made, the land, the flavour of the soil and even the sun, which rests on the slopes in this way rather than in the other. Behind each of these are people who have turned the process that has nothing to do with mass production into an art and who want to share this art with others. They are true wizards who know how to please the most capricious of senses. In a world of fast food, fast eating and mediocrity, these are the local products that become an asset and the biggest attraction of particular regions. How do we know that a given product has actually been made for centuries and for many generations from the same healthy products that have grown up under specific conditions that determine to a large extent its taste and properties? How to recognise such products and how to find them?
On the art of recognising regional products
What are regional products?
- This label is regulated by law, at the level of the entire European Union, which has had a system for protecting, identifying and distinguishing high-quality agricultural and food products since 1992.
- These products owe their uniqueness to a specific geographical origin or to a traditional method of production.
- Such products are entered by the European Commission into a special register protecting their names , geographical origin or specificity.
- For us, gourmets, this means that the product with a particular name is the original one, made with the same ingredients and by the same methods. These products are marked with special symbols.
On the art of appreciating traditional products
- The quality of traditional products is protected by the Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, which keeps a register of them.
- These are agricultural products, foodstuffs and spirit drinks, the quality or unique characteristics and properties of which result from the use of traditional production methods and which are a part of the cultural heritage of the region in which they are produced.
- The ministry creates a List of Traditional Products, which by itself is a guide to regional Polish cuisine, as well as a treasury of information on the traditions, ways of production and unique values of the oldest delicacies.
- The products included on such a list can use the ‘Traditional product from the Małopolska region’ trademark.
Museums of good food
Kraków and Małopolska boast the longest list of registered regional and traditional products among all Polish regions. You will find here some that have for years been a recognisable sign and symbol of the cities and regions concerned, such as the Kraków bagel. It needs no introduction even abroad, and today, thanks to the Bagel Museum, we have the opportunity to see how it’s made and even learn how to weave it ourselves. Of course, there is also the oscypek cheese, the taste of which is known not only to those who come to taste it in the Tatras. According to experts, it is the most recognisable product in Poland and in the world. Its hidden secrets can be found in the Oscypek Museum in Zakopane. Other recognisable brands include the carp from Zator, as well as apples from the Łącko Basin or the Lisiecka sausage produced in the municipalities of Liszki and Czernichów. But there are several less known products that are also worth a try, such as the Galician garlic or the piaszczańska sausage from Piaski Wielkie. The secret to this sausage is an infusion of several herbs including juniper berries! Let’s mention also the honeydew honey from Low Beskids , fragrant with resin, which is made from fir honeydew and has a simply excellent taste. Finally, there is also Czas pustyni (Desert Time), an alcoholic beverage from the Błędów Desert. For generations it has been made from dry pea seeds, germinated winter rye seeds, sugar and water. If you want to know more about these products, take a look at the culinary map of Małopolska and embark on the most delicious journey of your life. You can follow the usual routes, such as the Małopolska Gourmets Route , which leads through inns with the highest standard and quality of service, where regional products and dishes are served. There is also the Wine Route, which leads to the most beautiful vineyards in the Małopolska region (you can also get there by bike)
There are fairs, more and less famous places, where you can taste and buy the regional products. But you can also create such a map yourself, going to places that will entice you with their history and surrounding nature.
Our glorious six
To whet your appetite, I present my personal glorious six. Remember that you can create your own list!
1. Cheese balls from Kowalowa
These are ball-shaped cheeses (gomółki) with lovely green flecks. They taste of mint. Zygmunt Gloger wrote about them in his famous Old Polish Encyclopaedia, and in a work edited by Seweryn Udziela, founder of the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum , where we can find such an information: “Gomółki are made from cheese mixed with sweet milk, to which is added a bit of mint or caraway seeds, and from this mass flat balls are formed, which are then dried in the sun in cages, on shingles or baked in the sun. This condiment is eaten with bread.” Gomółka is therefore firmly established. In Kowalowa near Tarnów, where it’s still more popular to add coarsely chopped mint to them than caraway seeds (hence the spots), they differ in shape, sometimes in colour, but have one thing in common. Whoever makes them puts their heart into them.
‘Gomółka kowalowska’ is a traditional product from the Małopolska region.
Kowalowa, where gomółki are still made, is a village near Tarnów known as early as from the 13th century, and where King Casimir the Great was said to have danced in the smithy with the wife of the local blacksmith. Located on the Ciężkowice Foothills, it’s known for nurturing traditions.
2. Szołdra from Rajbrot
Although the name itself may be a challenge for foreigners, the taste will make up for everything – because szołdra is a golden ham made from the meat of porkers reared exclusively on local farms. The preparation process has remained unchanged for several decades. The secret of its success and flavour is curing, i.e. bathing in a marinade consisting of pepper, allspice, bay leaf and garlic. The ham is then shaped and stringed by hand. Prepared in this way, it waits for some major holiday. Because in Rajbrot it wasn’t eaten every day, but only on special occasions.
Szołdra from Rajbrot is a traditional product from the Małopolska region.
Rajbrot is a village in the Bochnia poviat , known as early as in 1260, and surrounded on all sides by wooded hills with rocky outcrops. These are the areas of the Wiśnicz-Lipnica Landscape Park . On the border of the village, there is a famous natural monument known as the Brodziński Stones – a group of rocks fancifully formed by erosion. The local wooden church was built at the beginning of the 16th century and belongs to the Wooden Architecture Route. There are several hiking trails leading through Rajbrot.
3. Osiek carp
In the interwar period, Osiek near Oświęcim used to be visited by international delegations and various important personalities, coming to see this famous fish. Carp has been bred here since the 14th century and it found its way to the tables of the Potocki family from Zator, the Lubomirski family from Przeworsk, the Radziwiłł family from Balice, the Zamojski family from Podzamcze, and the Czecz family of Zaborze and Kobiernice. Who knows, maybe its fame and taste were determined by the lupin with which it was fed or by the passion of Oskar de Rudno Rudziński, who created the Osiek carp through mysterious cross-breeds. The fact is that it was tasty and magnificent. In 1912, at the National Exhibition in Lviv, it received the best mark and gained international popularity. Today, it has regained its place in the culinary history of the Małopolska region and on the tables. And not just on Christmas Eve, when it used to be traditionally eaten.
The Osiek carp is a traditional product from the Małopolska region.
4. Buchta from Bolęcin
According to the Dictionary of Polish Language edited by M. Samuel Bogumił Linde in 1854, “villagers roll and boil in hot water buchtas, i.e. dough bloated with yeast, in big pieces”. Housewives from Bolęcin have been baking them for ages, although usually they do this on Sundays and holidays. It is not an expensive cake, because all you need to have are eggs, milk, sugar and fat. And yeast, obviously. The provision is testamentary – it can’t be changed. Just like the grandmothers did, you have to make the dough leavened with milk, sugar, yeast and flour, and when it has risen, it should be mixed. Finally, add some fat. The dough must easily come off the hand; it can’t be sticky. Then you give it a little more time to rise, and off it goes – to the oven. Buchtas can also be topped with sprinkles. When you go to Bolęcin, you will definitely learn the recipe – just remember that buchta doesn’t tolerate draughts.
Buchta from Bolęcin is a traditional product from the Małopolska region.
Bolęcin (Trzebinia municipality) lies on the edge of the Dulowa Forest . It’s another village that existed already in the Middle Ages, and in the 16th century it was well known for the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes.
5. Susorki d’Iwkowa
Iwkowa is famous for its clean air and unique submontane location. These conditions are favourable for the cultivation of fruit trees, which has been recorded here since the 16th century. So, it’s no surprise that this is where susorki, or dried pear, plum and apple fruits, were invented. It’s important that the fruit is ripe, just picked and without any damage. It takes several days to have them dried with burning oak, beech or hornbeam wood in the dryers. And it needs to be stirred regularly. After a few days, from 4-5 kilos of fruit we receive a kilo of the susorki healthy and tasty snack.
Susorki d’Iwkowa are a traditional product from the Małopolska region.
The uniqueness of this area was already recognised by Queen Jadwiga Bolesławówna, wife of Władysław Łokietek, who regulated the settlement by the local river already in 1334. You can find here an amazing wooden church from the 15th century with Gothic sculptures and its own parish museum (Wooden Architecture Route), the hermitage of St Urban, and the lookout tower on Szpilówka.
6. Trout from Ojców
Many people already know that Ojców (see proposals of walks around Ojców) is a land not only of bats, fabulous rocks, and caves but also of brook trout. This historic farm, which was established on land belonging to Princess Ludwika Czartoryska in the 1930s, has been restored and brought back to gourmets from all over Poland by a mother and daughter. They are two brave women who, against all odds and mocking, believed and still believe that this tradition can’t disappear from the very heart of the Ojców National Park . When you climb up to Jonaszówka, one of several lookout points in the area, you’ll see the birthplace and breeding ground of this fish in all its glory. The crystal-clear water of the Młynówka stream flows into the ponds and provides the Ojców trout with excellent breeding conditions. There is no cheating here, as evidenced by the unpretentious way in which the fish is cooked and the belief that taste needs no additions. That is why in Ojców, where the trout is served either smoked or grilled with onions and herbs, there are always long queues to buy it. And everyone knows that it’s worth waiting for and then eating the fish under the Ojców sky, on simple wooden tables.
Trout from Ojców is a traditional product from the Małopolska region.