Alpine Cheese Month with Adopt an AlpBack to feed
- Posted: 11/14/2018
- Categories: The Cheese Shop
This month, we’re featuring Alpine Cheese in our Cheese Shop! We’ve partnered with Adopt an Alp, an organization that unites Swiss farmers with American cheese buyers, to bring you four rare varieties of Apline cheeses! We’ve “adopted” two alps (Alp Jänzimatt and Alp Ruosalp) and will be selling two cheeses from each Alp thoughout the month of November!
Alpine cheese is special for a number of reasons. It’s handmade, created with only the freshest ingredients, and crafted in the crisp, clean, and unpollouted atmosphere of the Alps. All of this results in cheese that is incredibly palatable, unique, and flavorful. We’ve purchased two different cheeses from each Alp that we’ve “adopted” and we’re offering all four cheeses at both locations!
Alp Jänzimatt has sent us their Niidlechäs and Vollmondkäse. The Niidlechäs is a semi-hard cheese made by adding cream to the milk and the Vollmondkäse is a unique cheese that is only made under the light of a full moon! Adrian Riebli, the farmer responsible for the upkeep of Alp Jänzimatt, says that the process of making Vollmondkäse is “mystical” and that “there is this special mood, a special relationship to the cheese when you produce it in the moonlight.” Click here to learn more about Alp Jänzimatt, the Rieblie family, and the cheese they produce.
We’ve selected two cheeses from Alp Ruosalp, as well! In-store, you’ll find their Alpkäse and Geisskäse in the Cheese Shop. Alpkäse means, quite simply, “Alpine cheese” and refers to any basic cheese made by farmers in the Alps. However, there’s nothing basic about this cheese! Aged for 4 months (minimum), this handmade cheese clocks in at 9 pounds per wheel. The Geisskäse, on the other hand, is much smaller and is actually an Alpine cheese made with goat’s milk. At 2 pounds per wheel, it’s not nearly as large as their Alpkäse, but it packs a lot of flavor. If you’re a fan of goat cheeses (or you’re curious to try some), you’ll love the Geisskäse. Click here to learn about Alp Ruosalp and the Herger family.
This video shows a small part of what it takes to make Alpine cheese.
Alpine cheese is special because it’s not just cheese, it’s a way of life. Farmers in the Alps still practice transhumance, an centuries-old practice in which farmers move their families and livestock down the mountain for the winter, then back up the mountain for the summer. It’s a tough trek, as the entire journey must be made on foot. Many of the mountains are too winding to be safely navigated by cars or buses, so families will often walk with their livestock.
You can read more about the traditions of transhumance here: https://www.adopt-an-alp.com/learn#Transhumance.
Once the journey is completed and families have reached their summer homes and pastures, the work truly begins. The land must be tended to, cows and goats must be milked, and the cheese must be made! Given that many of thes Alpine farms are far, far away from modern technologies and conveniences, this is a hard life and can be difficult to adjust to. As a result, the prevalance of Alpine cheesemaking and transhumance is declining and true Alpine cheese is becoming more and more rare.
Here’s one example of some of the work that goes into farming in the Alps! The Herger family shot this video while building a Trischtä stack, a haystack that is covered with spruce twigs. It will remain in the meadow through the summer and fall.
However, there is still a group of farmers willing to make the journey and do the work, many of whom are enrolled in the Adopt an Alp program. Though it’s hard, taxing work, undertaking transhumance and spending summers in the highest Alpine peaks is a special experience for many. The clear, fresh Alpine air, the majesty of living amongst the mountaintops, and the act of caring for families, livestock, and land holds a special place in many farmers hearts. These men and women return year after year to climb to the top and make the special cheeses that we are privileged to enjoy. You can read their stories here: http://www.adopt-an-alp.com/blog.
Last year, the Herger family from Alp Ruosalp celebrated the birth of a new calf! You can watch here in this video from Adopt an Alp!