How to Make Swiss Cheese

I suppose you could say that this is part 2.0 of the story I published at the end of July on my four day journey in the Swiss Alps to make real Swiss cheese. I did my usual thing: blabbered about the everyday adventures we had on the mountain, and the food that I cooked. So, I am dedicating this post to the chemists out there who happen to be foodies as well (or are in food science), because I don’t often cater to their desires. I am going to tell you how to make cheese of the Swiss Alps!

Now, I don’t remember the exact play-by-play of the chemical reactions that occur between each step, because the Alpini explained that to me over two months ago, and we were working too hard to have time for jotting down any notes. Sorry chemists, but I’ll have to give you a simplified version of the formaggio d’alpe (cheese of the Alps) production process.

Chipa and Mountains

1. The cheese starts off as a combination of half goat milk, and half cow milk. The goats and cows are grass-fed, because high-quality grass produces high-quality cheese. We also had to be attentive to the animals’ temperaments because, as the Alpini like to say, “stressed cows give you stracchino”  (stracchino is a buttery, soft cheese).

The goat-milker eyes his next target.

The goat-milker eyes his next target.

Gilberto and Michela milk the cows.

Gilberto and Michela milk the cows.

 

2. The milk is pumped into a copper basin.

Francesco mans the milk.

Francesco mans the milk.

3. Steam runs through the interior walls of the basin, which is pumped from a wood-burning furnace  (we had to collect a lot of wood all the time) a few feet away.

4. The milk churns while it is slowly heated to a moderately warm temperature (I think it was something like 25 degrees C)

5. Bacteria is added to the milk to act as a catalyst for the reaction.

6. I think the milk is heated up to a higher temperature?It was definitely heated either before or after the bacteria was added… Blame my memory for this one.

7. The milk is left to rest for about an hour, as the curd set and the whey sinks to the bottom.

8. Here is everyone’s favorite part: Splitting the curds with the guitar-string tool! The floating curds on top are split into tiny pieces as the milk is turned by a helping hand.

Laura splits the curds as I move the mixture along.

Laura splits the curds as I move the mixture along.

Curds and Whey

9. Once the curds are split, the milk is left to churn a little longer, allowing the curds to form even stronger and bigger.

Just like the old "pasta test", the curds are ready when they stick to your hand.

Just like the old “pasta test”, the curds are ready when they stick to your hand.

CurdsCurds

10. SEPARATE THE CURDS AND THE WHEY!

Curds

 

Curds

11. Allow the curds to rest under weights.

Making CHeese

12. Bath in the whey. (Don’t tell the owner that we did that. I am sworn to secrecy.)

Bathing in Whey

13. Cut the cheese into cubes.

Making Cheese

 

14. Place cubes in circular molds, and lay weights down.

Circular molds.

Circular molds.

TIME OUT: Clean up!

I scrub some buckets and funnels. We spent more time cleaning than making cheese.

I scrub some buckets and funnels. We spent more time cleaning than making cheese.

 

15. Every 45 minutes for an hour and a half, we had to flip which cheese was at the bottom of the mold with the one on the top (my favorite job).

My favorite task: flipping the cheese in their molds.

My favorite task: flipping the cheese in their molds.

Grossalp

16. The next morning, we wake up at 5 am to find our cheese ready to go in the salt water bath! This bath salts the cheese, and prepares it for preservation.

Cheese Bath

 

17. Carve in the day (the first day of the cheese-making season is marked “1”, etc.).

Cheese Carving

18. Preserve and eat!

Laura offers me cheese to try.

Laura offers me cheese to try.

Alpino Cheese

19. Occasionally wipe off the mold.

Scrubbing Cheese

20. Go take a hike!

Chipa

21. Buon Appetito!

The alpini meet at the table after a long day at work.

The alpini meet at the table after a long day at work.

 

 

2 responses on “How to Make Swiss Cheese

  1. Ben, this is an informative post for a non-scientist like me and a great explanation of the process. Loved it! And the photos add so much! Always enjoy your blog. Keep it going! Susan

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