Ask any of our cheesemongers for a recommendation this time of year, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up walking away with an Alpine cheese. For centuries, the seasons have been marked by the cows’ and farmers’ movements up and down the mountains to take advantage of the flowering summer pastures high up in the Alps. Each of these cheeses has an incredible, unique depth with a few unifying characteristics; they are buttery, nutty, rich and perfect for fall and winter weather.
This process of seasonal production is called Transhumance but is becoming rarer and rarer as cheese making is being commercialized. This year, we decided to partner with two different farmers in the Alps as part of the Adopt an Alp program to help support this centuries-old artisan tradition.
The Gantrischli dairy, located on Alp Steiners Hohberg, is run by 8 families using the milk of only 120 black and white cows. From this relatively small amount cattle, we’ve received 6 wheels of Swiss Raclette and 6 wheels of Vacherin Fribourgeois. This raclette is nuttier and stronger than any we’ve had in store before and if you’ve ever thought about trying to do a raclette dinner, now is the time! (We rent raclette machines to help you out) The Vacherin Fribourgeois, always on the stronger, more pungent end of Alpine cheeses anyway has an intense fresh hay and rich milk flavor and a creamy, fudgy paste. Try adding this to a classic fondue recipe for an unforgettable twist.
An even rarer find for us is the single wheel of L’Etivaz we received from the Zjӧrien family on Alp Tompey. The Alp is located at the end of the Hongrin Valley overlooking Lake Geneva where the family produces L’Etivaz using the milk of the 70 cows in their herd. As per the longstanding tradition of L’Etivaz, the cheese is made by hand over an open fire directly in the dairy meaning the aromas of alpine herbs delicately flavor the cheese. The paste is deliciously buttery and nutty while the subtle hints of the herbs round out the complexity of this superb cheese.
If you’re already a fan of Alpine cheeses like we are, these three offerings are a truly special treat. If you’re new to this world, however, we can’t think of a better way to introduce you to the tradition of incredible Alpine cheeses.