I love the Italian phrase, “Tutto il mondo e’ paese” which is clunkily translated to, the world is a small town but the true meaning is that, in spite of geographic distances and cultural differences, some things are the same the world over. I also firmly believe that in part this phenomenon can be traced to the cultural cross pollination that comes from migrations most evident in port towns like Trieste. Often, culinary heritage can be traced back through its citizens’ origins from different parts of the world, however, if you ask any Triestino, they will tell you that a particular dish is an original local treasure!
One of these treasures is a staple found among most aperitivo offerings in Trieste, it is referred to as a spuma di formaggio (cheese foam) a fluffly mountain of soft cheese, with peaks elegantly dusted with paprika; this is the ubiquitous Liptauer. The name is derived from the German name Liptau for the region of Liptov (Hungarian: Liptó) in northern Slovakia, a former county in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In Bavaria it is known as Obatzda, in Slovakia it goes by the name Šmirkás, in Germany Schmierkäse (for cheese spread), in Hungary Körözött, in Serbia Urnebes salata, (“chaos salad” – i love that!), in Croatia and Albania it’s liptao and finally, in Austria and Italy, especially in the province of Trieste, it is Liptauer.
Sometimes, Liptauer has the paprika mixed right into it resulting in an orange hue which ** ding! ding! ding! ** brings to mind that singularly southern U.S. of A. dish, the “caviar” or “pate’” of the South – pimento cheese!! (If there are cheese historians or cheese genealogists out there let me know if you agree!).
Much like pimento cheese recipes, Liptauer recipes vary not just from country to country, but from region to region, even family to family.
Liptauer is prepared with quark cheese which is easy enough to make. Added to the cheese are finely chopped chives, onion, capers, cornichons, mustard, sour cream and butter and spices which include ground sweet paprika and whole (or ground) caraway seeds.
Typically this spread is served as an hors d’oeuvres on small toasts, or pumpernickle bread squares, crackers, or on hard boiled eggs. Other times, it is served as a breakfast spread and it is also used as a condiment in sandwiches.
*** Recipe from The Curious Cuisiniere – this one incorporates butter ***
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 oz salted butter, softened
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers, chopped
1 ½ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds, ground
1 tsp prepared mustard
¼ tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in the a medium mixing bowl and blend using an electric hand mixer, until everything is well mixed and the cheese is fluffy.
Refrigerate the spread in an airtight container for at least 1 hour before serving.
Spread will last for 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.
*** Liptauer Spread recipe by By EDUARD FRAUNEDER and WOLFGANG PUCK May 2011 *** – this one incorporates cornichons:
Total Time: 20 MIN Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups Serves : 6
8 ounces cream cheese
softened 2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped drained capers
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl
refrigerate and then dust with Paprika before serving
This version will be pink because the paprika is mixed in.
The Triestine version by Historic Triestine cookbook author Maria Stelvio:
100g ricotta cheese (preferably made with sheep’s milk)
50g blue cheese
Just mix all the ingredients together, add salt and pepper to taste.
Refrigerate and serve dusted with paprika.
In the end, try them all until you find a combination of ingredients that suits your palate which you can then claim as your own personal version!