Alpine Style Cheese
Persistent snowy days stopped momentarily. It is still cold and we are still in the deep winter season. Yes it has been cold. I just love the wood burning fireplace, single malt, crusty homemade bread (yes I make bread in winter), and few pieces of cheeses. After festive New Year’s bubbly, which is paired best with creamy soft cheeses, I tend to choose more complex, savory, and nutty cheeses the rest of winter months. One of those cheeses is Alpine style cheese.
So what is it? You may have had an alpine style cheese and not realized. Classics like Swiss Gruyere, Appenzeller, and Emmental, French Comte, and Italian Fontina come to mind. So what makes these cheeses distinctly Alpine style? The term “Alpine cheese” means any cheese indigenous to the Alps region. It is the European mountain ranges marking the borders of Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy. These cheeses have achieved global fame and replication, however, because of centuries-old recipes and methods that make these cheeses so special, according to Jessica Hazard. This style of cheese was produced through the process of transhumance, in which the herds would graze higher up the mountain in the summers as the snow retreated. This increased the amount of wild herbs and flowers the cows would be grazing on, as well as a richer grass, all of which bring out the nutty and grassy flavors these cheeses are known for, explained by Daniel McElligott.
Typically Alpine cheese is semi-firm to hard with sweet and nutty flavors. The curds are cut very fine to promote expulsion of as much whey as possible. Curds are then cooked at high temperatures and placed in a mold where further pressure releases more whey, leaving behind a cheese that will be low in moisture. These steps eliminate excess moisture, allowing the cheese to age as long as several years. The elasticity of the cheeses and the sweet flavors are due to slow and low level acid production during ageing of the cheeses, which also contributes to the formation of the holes or eyes in the cheese. Also typical of Alpines is that they are always made in a large format, at least 20 pounds and upwards. The idea is that a longer shelf life gives the cheese some stability during its journey down from the mountains. They mostly have natural or washed rinds.
Reverie created its own mini Alpine style cheese named Wanderer. It received a Silver medal in a 2017 New York State Artisan Cheese Competition. This cheese is a wheel that weighs 10 pounds and is aged for 6 months, during which time the rind is periodically washed with porter beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company mixed with a salt solution. Pair it with Reverie’s own onion confit (caramelized onion, raw honey, and toasted fennel) made in Vermont by Blake Hill Preserves. Wanderer is nutty, savory, slightly malty – a perfect winter cheese.
PUBLISHED IN “LAKESIDE LEDGER” January 5, 2018