First things first, if you’re going to make Alp cheese, you need an alp and some cows!
We visited such an alp and such cows a few weeks ago with friends. They took us to their daughter’s in-laws’ farm on the Bäderalp in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland. I couldn’t have known prior to that weekend all the cool experiences it would hold.
Even though this Texas gal has seen her share of cows and farms before, she definitely ended up in the role of super enthusiastic American tourist. I was even excited about the cute cows, which I used to tease people for when they visited Texas.
I loved the animals, the cheese, the Swiss farm house, the people, the cheese-making process. I loved scouring the mountainside for brave little alpine marmots, and sitting around the big kitchen table with everyone afterwards, for a lunch filled with home made food and lively conversation. It was a Sunday of little rest for the cheese makers, and a glimpse of a simpler way of life many city folk miss out on.
Welcome to the Cheese Cellar
You may have never really stopped to think how all that cheese is made, but that was part of what I appreciated about getting to watch the process. It’s just one of life’s many luxuries (cheese), yet how it comes to us, we usually take for granted. We choose the cheese, we pay the money, we eat the cheese.
When we arrived, the cows (and the goats) had already been milked and the milk was churning in this huge black pot in the middle of the room. Over the next while, the milk would start to setup. They stirred it with two “dustpans” and also, with what I call “the biggest cheese slicer I’ve ever seen in my life”. (See video at the end of the post). After heating it over the wood fire, they began taking out exact amounts, straining it through the cheese cloth, and pressing it into forms.
The cheese stays in the form until the next day, when it’s trimmed up before being put into salt water for a few hours. It’s then placed on the shelves to begin the ageing process. Stepping into the cheese cellar, the thought actually went through my mind that surely heaven will have this much cheese.
Don’t forget about the goats!
At the same time as the cow’s milk was being churned into cheese, there was a smaller project off to the side, compliments of the goats. We brought some of the homemade goat cheese home with us as a souvenir, one of our better life decisions we’ve made. Sure didn’t last long.
(By the way, the goat with the attitude reminds me of when someone points a camera in my face. How would you feel if someone poked a camera in your face early on a Sunday morning?)
I’ve now lived in Switzerland for a year, and this was by far the most “Swiss” thing we’ve gotten to be a part of, and the most fun. As we drove away, the farming family was waving as the mom yodelled her farewell. You could have told me we had been stuck in a movie frame and I would have believed you.
The pictures along with the following video are especially for those who may not get the chance to visit, but just in case you do someday, here’s exactly where we were. The farm also has facilities for guests to overnight, mostly rented to hikers. Bedding is your choice of straw or mattress! A fresh, homemade typical Swiss breakfast is included and insiders tip: ask if they have any of their homemade caramel candy available to buy.