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Handkaese 20060117.jpg
Other names Handkäs
Country of origin Germany
Region Hesse
Town Frankfurt-am-Main
Source of milk Cow
Texture Soft but firm
Fat content 1.1% to 2.3%
Protein content 26.6% to 37.7%
Certification PDO (Hessischer Handkäse)[1]
'Handkäs mit Musik' (Hessian: Handkäse with music); marinated Handkäse

Handkäse (pronounced [ˈhantkɛːzə]; literally: hand cheese) is a German regional sour milk cheese (similar to Harzer) and is a culinary speciality of Frankfurt am Main, Offenbach am Main, Darmstadt, Langen and all other parts of southern Hesse. It gets its name from the traditional way of producing it: forming it with one's own hands.[2]

It is a small, translucent, yellow cheese with a pungent aroma that many people find unpleasant. It is sometimes square, but more often round in shape.

Often served as an appetizer or as a snack with Apfelwein (aka Ebbelwoi or cider), it is traditionally topped with chopped onions,[3] locally known as "Handkäse mit Musik" (literally: hand cheese with music). It is usually eaten with caraway[4] on it, but since many people in Germany do not like this spice, in many areas it is served on the side. Some Hessians say that it is a sign of the quality of the establishment when caraway is in a separate dispenser. As a sign of this many restaurants have, in addition to the salt and pepper, a little pot for caraway seeds.

Strangers to this custom will probably ask where the "Musik" is. They will most likely be told that "Die Musik kommt später," i.e. the music "comes later." This is a euphemism for the flatulence that the raw onions usually provide. A more polite, but less likely explanation for the "Musik" is that the flasks of vinegar and oil customarily provided with the cheese would strike a musical note when they hit each other. Handkäse is popular among dieters and some health food devotees. It is also popular among bodybuilders, runners, and weightlifters for its high content of protein while being relatively low in fat.


Usually a knife is used to cut off a piece, then the piece is to be stabbed by the knife and eaten directly from it. Alternately, it can be served with bread and butter: Some cheese goes on a piece of bread, accompanied by a bit of "Musik" on top of the cheese. In both cases a knife is used, and then hands are used for eating the topped bread.

While Apfelwein is traditionally served with Handkäse, white wine is also preferred in some areas, like Rheinhessen.

See also[edit]