This year is a great year of European travel for me. I am visiting Switzerland, Germany, France, and England, so you can be sure I will be writing and tasting plenty! I update my Facebook and Twitter (@msscheesemonger) daily, and you can see more of my writings on my blog, http://misscheesemonger.com/.
This weekend I sojourned into the Swiss Alps with a group of cheese enthusiasts, headed by Rolf Beeler, champion of Schweizer Käse. About an hour and a half outside of Zurich in the Muothatal region is Alp Dräckloch. From this, the Föhn family derived the name for their cheese, which they have been making for the past 16 summers in the most traditional fashion and setting. We started at 7 a.m. at Klöntal lake, which was the most vibrant shade of cyan I have ever seen. From there we were retrieved by an antiquated jeep that we piled into the back of - like in an old army movie! - that took us up the base of the mountain, though a two hour hike still awaited us. We were rewarded with a visit with the cheesemakers at the top. When we arrived they were warming the morning milk in a copper cauldron over a fire - which made for some very atmospheric pictures! - and were preparing the mules to fetch the afternoon milk from their herd of around 40 Braunvieh cows.
A couple years ago while attending an ACS conference, I sat in on a tasting of a cheese called wildheuer. This cheese from Switzerland was from the milk of cows that were fed wild mountain hay of the Swiss alps. More interesting is the story of the men who cut the wild grass and transport it from the top of the steepest mountains to the base, store it for the cold winters, and feed the animals with it. Wildheuer (or wild haymakers) are now a dying breed but there are still those who carry out the old methods and traditions. Below is a short video (in Swiss with no subtitles, I'm afraid) depicting the life of a young wildheuer, his family and the breathtaking land and work.