The bloody story of the "Stramberk ears"
Strolling through Christmas markets around the Czech Republic, you can find various Czech traditional sweets. Gingerbread men are probably the most typical ones but more and more often one can come across what's known as Stramberske usi or "Stramberk ears" - cone-shaped gingerbread cookies with a bloodstained history.
Stramberske usi is now a registered trademark and can be produced exclusively in the town of Stramberk. Bohumila Suterova is one of just eight people with licences to bake the Stramberk ears.
"We have an association in Stramberk, and we oversee the quality of the product. We want to bake tasty and pretty ears, not to be a disgrace to Stramberk. Of course, the recipe is top secret. Each one of us uses slightly different ingredients and proportions. We don't even tell each other because each one of us wants to have the best ears."
Bohumila Suterova has been baking the cookies since the 1970s. She says that every real "Stramberak" knows how to make the ears. Just come to Stramberk in May for the annual fair and the whole town will smell of spices.
Only a few years back this delicacy was not available anywhere else but the town of its origin but times are changing.
"Tourists who come to Stramberk try the ears and then ask for a contact. We either send the ears by post or the tourists keep coming back. But now we also have distributors, so we can sell the ears outside Stramberk, even in Prague."
A genuine Stramberk ear should be light brown, firm but not brittle and should have a balanced taste. It takes years of experience to find the right proportion of flour, honey, sugar, star anise, cloves, and that special something which distinguishes the Stramberk ears from any other similar cookies.