Alp Krauchtal Alpkaese – limited quantities available
Alp Krauchtal Alpkaese is manufactured in an alpine dairy by Christoph Marti and his family. The cheese is made of whole raw milk from brown cows that graze in the Stutz area of Alp Krauchtal for roughly 110 days in the summer. The cows feed on the sweet summer grass at an altitude over 6000 feet. Alpkaese is a somewhat generic term for cheese made in the Alps, made only with the milk collected from grass fed cows. An alp or Alpage refers to small farm at a high elevation, and one that is only run during the summer months for cheese production. Transhumance involves physically moving the herd of cows from the lower levels below the Alps up to the pastures where the lush summer grass grows on the mountains. It is this grass which gives alpage cheeses (including our own Alpage Gruyere) such a deep, full, and nuanced flavor.
Unlike a mass produced cheese, this Alpkaese allows for much variance in the interpretation of flavors…as you can see below:
“Springy texture, slightly sour, but in a good way. Sweet, light herb and grassy notes. Doesn’t hit you over the head like so many other Swiss cheeses. I am even getting a bit of mozzarella flavor notes.”
“Tastes like cheese covered Italian bread and/or cheese covered pasta. I felt a meaty sensation, kind of like what I get from the sugo on spaghetti Bolognese.”
“Herbal and somewhat grassy, I also taste hints of spring onions. Very approachable and unique…can’t say I’ve ever tasted anything quite like this!”
July and August had lovely weather, with lots of sunshine and no cold spells. Only one incident stood out as unusual to Christoph: “One of our cows had severe problems with her claws, and we had to move her home to the valley. Of the rest, 15 cows we do not milk anymore, they are ‘dry’ and will give birth in the fall.” Christoph is also very pleased with cheese production so far. Going into the last week of August, they had produced about 600 wheels. “We have cut the first wheels to taste and are very, very pleased with the results. Of course, the cheese is still young and mild. But this will change! With fall approaching other tasks are at hand. My assistant has cut a lot of wood for the winter. We have also started to remove the fences, now that the cows gradually come down to lower meadows.”
Later in the summer, Christoph Marti had not expected the early temperature drop and snow that surprised so many along the alpine range. But since the white blanket seemed to melt just as quickly as it had started to cover his meadows the experienced farmer did not panic. His wife Sandra, who stays with their three children on the main farm, says: “At this time of the year they are fixing and preparing the house for the winter. There are a lot of little things to take care of so that when they return next summer everything is alright and ready to be used.” A bit of snowfall might have kept them in the house for a day but not away from work. “Now they only make cheese every other day. And only a few wheels at a time.” Marti and his two employees closed up and descended for good on Thursday, September 19. “They just decided that by then they would be done with all that they had wanted to do up there,” says Sandra. “Since there is barely any milk left by now there is no need to still stay up there.”