Nakládaný hermelín (cheese marinated in garlic and onion) lives in the hearts of Czech people. It’s a Czech phenomenon you can find in every (proper) local restaurant in Prague — just look for the section on the menu that says “Food to go with beer.”
There are even books and websites dedicated to this delicacy — all of which give you the feeling that the authors may have actually been writing love letters to the cheese itself. And of course, this cheese goes perfectly with beer, although maybe not with kissing.
It’s also the most asked-for recipe on our Prague Beer & Czech Tapas tour. And locals (like us) eat it a lot — in fact, it’s often the gauge by which we measure a new beer hall, restaurant, pub, or café. Why? Because well-done hermelín shows that the chef cares — and yes, you really can mess up this dish, especially if you’re lacking garlic and patience. It needs to stay in that marinade for 10 days, otherwise you’ll have cheese that’s too hard and doesn’t retain any flavour. Bad hermelín will feel like “meh, not much here,” whereas properly done hermelín will make us come back for more (and likely become a regular).
Cut the cheese into bite-size cubes, and put it into a jar with all the spices and oil. (Experiment with how much is good for you. It may take a few tries to get your perfect ratio of garlic to cheese, but really, who’s going to complain if you have to make another batch?)
Let it soak for about five to seven days, until it becomes very soft. There are plenty of variations — I’ve experimented with different chilis and bell peppers as well.
If you’re in Prague, forget about making it at home and just grab a plate out in the city. Our list of favourite places for hermelín is always changing, but at the moment, for really good versions (so garlicky that you might fly off public transit with a little assistance of fellow passengers) are: