Tegel (which translates to “brick” in Swedish) is produced at Almnäs Bruk, an organic farm situated on the picturesque west coast of the second largest lake in Sweden, Lake Vättern. The history of the cheese dates back to the 18th century, when the estate was home to a brick factory. Bricks were left out in the sun to dry, and children on the farm would run over them while playing, leaving behind their footprints. The footprint became the logo of the brick company, and later, the symbol of Almnäs Tegel cheese. Subsequent owners, including great-grandfather of managing director Thomas Berglund, transformed the brick factory into a cheesemaking facility. They produced Wrångebäck Sweden, the country’s first officially registered cheese, until 1961.
In 1987 due to his father’s poor health, Berglund returned to the estate from Switzerland, where had had been working, and decided to start making cheese again. After many years of planning, traveling to France and Switzerland to study cheesemaking, and gaining organic certification, he started production in 2008.
To make Tegel, milk from the farm’s herd of 400 Holstein cows is pumped into a copper vat, two cultures are added, and the milk is warmed to 89 degrees. Rennet is added, and after about 35 minutes the curd is cut with rotating harps. Curd is stirred while being warmed to 123 degrees, then the contents of the vat are emptied into 14 square molds. After 19 hours of pressing, cheeses are imprinted with four footprints, then brined for 48 hours. During a subsequent aging period of 18-30 months, cheeses are washed with salt water less and less frequently.
As it ages, Almnäs Tegel’s rind changes from creamy white to orange, ultimately turning into a deep reddish brown. Flavor becomes increasingly rich and complex, with a saltiness and a prickliness on the tongue balanced by sweetness, caramel and a hint of grass.
Pair it with a chardonnay, a riesling, a hard cider, or a bock beer.