Vorarlberger Alpkäse cheese
Vorarlberger Alpkäse is a g.U. (Geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnunghard) cheese made from natural unpasteurised milk produced in areas of Alpine grassland in the Vorsäss and Maisäss regions, which has a dried-on, grainy rind ranging from yellowish-brown to brown in colour. The body ranges from firm to more supple and is ivory-coloured, generally with round pea-size eyes. The cheese contains more than 45% fat in the dry matter and each wheel weighs up to 35 kg. The flavour is mild and aromatic, becoming more piquant as the cheese ages. The minimum maturation period is between three and six months, and there may be slight variations in the characteristics of the cheese (small slits, fewer eyes).
- Geographical area
Alpine areas in the Vorsäss and Maisäss regions of the Austrian Land Vorarlberg. Officially recognized Alpine farms lie around 1 000 to 1 800 m above sea level and are only farmed in the summer months as part of a 3-stage farming system.
Documents show that the "Süss- bzw. Fettsennen" ( a process which remains the basis of Vorarlberger Alpkäse cheesemaking) was used as early as the time of the Thirty Years' War. In the 18th century a large proportion of Alpine milk was already used to produce Alpine cheese. The designation "Vorarlberger Alpkäse" has been used since then.
- Method of production:
Raw milk suitable for making hard cheese is obtained from officially controlled herds that are not fed any silage fodder. It is processed on-site, rather than being transported elsewhere or put into interim storage. Neither does it undergo pasteurisation, heat treatment or bactofugation. Milk yielded in the evening is immediately placed in small containers (wooden tubs or vats),to allow the cream to rise. The cream is separated the next day in order to obtain the desired fat content; this is done by skimming off the cream by hand (Alpine butter). The Alpine cheese is then produced in Sennkesseln (copper kettles) using this matured, skimmed milk together with whole milk yielded in the morning, lactic acid cultures and rennet. The curd is removed by hand using cheese cloths rather than cheesemaking machines. The curd is then heated up to between 51.5C and 52.5C, pressed and regularly treated with brine to form the rind. The cheesemaking process is restricted to the months of summer pasturing (i.e. herd fed exclusively on mountain grazing). The short summering period (3-4 months) means that the product is only available seasonally and in small quantities. Use of milk from valley farms in any form is prohibited. National regulations govern livestock farming, animal welfare, farm hygiene and staff hygiene. Quality is guaranteed by means of controls and staff training courses, including hygiene courses.
The milk used to produce Vorarlberger Alpkäse has a particular flavour as a result of the Alpine vegetation in the area of manufacture, since the cattle are entirely grass-fed. This, together with the fact that the cheese is produced by hand using traditional methods, gives the cheese its characteristic appearance and taste. Cheesemaking plays a key role in preserving Vorarlberg's traditional Alpine farming and is indispensable to maintaining the biodiversity and stability of Vorarlberg's Alpine cultural landscape.
Reference: The European Commission
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