I am not an expert at all in German food or Oktoberfest, but I do love beer and cheese and pretzels. Obatzda is a traditional creamy cheese and onion spread that, I have read, is often served at beer halls, like it’s Austrian cousin Liptauer. I like to mold it onto a ball for serving, because we do love or cheese balls in the South and call it a cheese ball since I cannot claim to complete obatzda authenticity. I think it makes a fantastic fall snack, perfect for tailgaiting or in front of the TV or to start an autumn get together. The flavors are deep and rich and it goes so well with hearty things to spread it on. Beer and camembert are a great funky combination, like in my Bacon Camembeer Bites.
I like to soak the onions in water for a bit before blending them because it takes away some of the raw bite but preserves the tangy onion flavor. And toasting the caraway seeds brings out the flavor. Let the camembert come to soft room temperature so it is easy to blend – it’s a little easier to cute into chunks while it’s cold. The butter needs to be soft and in small pieces as well. A little shot of beer adds flavor and smoothness, but you can use milk if you don’t want to open a whole bottle – though of course, you do get to then drink the rest of the bottle! I love this serves with slices of soft pretzel bread sticks, or even whole soft twisted pretzels. Apple slices add a nice sweet/savory note, and those dried fruit and nut crisps made for cheese are delicious. You can also make toast points from pumpernickel bread.
Beer Hall Cheese Ball
½ small red onion
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
8 ounces camembert, at room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon beer, german or lager style (or milk)
- Slice the red onion into very thin slices, place in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit for 10 minutes, then drain in a fine mesh sieve, shaking off as much water as possible. Pat dry with paper towels.
- While the onions are soaking, toast the caraway seeds in a dry skillet over medium high heat until they are toasty brown, begin to pop and smell lovely, like pumpernickel bread. Remove to a small bowl or plate to cool. When cool, place in a ziptop bag and use a rolling pin to crush the seeds into dust.
- Pick put a few of the smaller onion rings to use as a garnish, then place the remaining onion in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to finely chop, scraping down the bowl as needed. Drop in the camembert, butter and paprika and pulse to combine. Add the salt and ½ teaspoon of the crushed caraway seeds (save the rest for garnish) and blend until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the beer and process until smooth and spreadable. Refrigerate until firm enough to mold into a ball (in the food processor bowl is fine). Place the cheese ball on a small plate and sprinkle over the remaining caraway seeds and some paprika to garnish. Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.
- The cheese ball can be made up to two days ahead and kept covered in the fridge.