*A bit about Gruyère Alpage
During the summer months, from mid May to mid October, is the time when this extraordinary Gruyère is made. At this time of year once the snow has melted, the farmers walk their cows up onto the high alpine pastures to take advantage of the abundant summer alpine grazing. It is here in the mountains, sometimes at an altitude exceeding 2000m in often ancient alpine chalets, that the cheesemaker works. It is the botanic diversity of the alpine pasture which gives the milk, and consequently the cheese, it’s distinctive flavour.
The family follows the cows and moves up into the mountains. They stay for these months in the Chalet where they sleep, cows are milked, and cheese is made. Life on the alps is labour intensive and often involves quite basic living conditions. The cows are grazed and bought to the chalet to be milked and cheese is made daily starting early each morning without pause.
Within the chalet’s cheesemaking room is an area where a fire can be made on the floor. Each morning fresh milk is poured into a traditional large copper vat which is then suspended over the fire. The vat can be moved on or off the fire, depending on the point in the process of the cheesemaking and the heat required - and there is great skill involved in controlling the fire. The ceiling of the chalet comes to a high point above the fire - a form of chimney, blackened by years of fire, to let the smoke escape. The smell of smoke fills the room, and the spark of wood burning is constant.
Production is limited. On average only about two cheeses are made per day. The cheese work is physical - the process and equipment not having changed much over time, but also there is the work of managing the herd, wood for the fire, and daily jobs around living in the chalet.
The skill of the cheesemaker is paramount - the conditions are changing constantly; the pasture the cows are eating alters throughout the season, which in turn affects the milk; the weather conditions on the Alp can alter very quickly, altering temperatures in the cheesemaking room. So the cheesemaker has to balance these fluctuations to maintain the quality of the finished cheese.
Cheeses are taken down the mountain when they are only a few days old to be matured in a central maturing house alongside the cheese of other producers. There has to be a close relationship between the cheesemaker and the affineur - they are both working together to ensure quality. Cheesemakers often have a life long commitment to sell cheese to one Affineur, and the Affineur in turn supports with training and advice.
Peoples passion, skill, sense of tradition, and commitment to quality come together to enable the continued production of Gruyère Alpage - despite a new era where this form of food production is facing many challenges.
* A bit about Fondue
Fondue is one of those dishes that have no definitive recipe. How you make Fondue seems to be influenced by where you are from in Switzerland and therefore, what cheese is made and available in your area. It is bad news for all the ‘scientific cooks’ out there who like precise instructions.
The following is a good combination:
• 6 Parts Gruyère
• 2 Parts Vacherin Fribourgeois
• 2 Parts Bergkäse – like Stilsitzer Steinsalz, Nidelkäse or First König.
• With the addition of 1/2 the weight of cheese in white wine. (A dry wine with a good acidity).
• A little Kirsch (Whiskey works well also).
• And finally, if you think you need it, a little cornstarch mixed with the Kirsch. (about 3 tsp for 1kg of
cheese). If you have a good blend there should be no need to add cornstarch.
Begin by heating up some of the wine, then gradually add the cheese and the cornstarch/kirsch mixture. And stir while it melts. Add more wine as necessary, until it reaches the desired thickness. It is very important to stir continually without heating the mixture too aggressively, as there is a danger that it will burn and stick to the bottom of the fondue pot.
If you have a cheese that separates or becomes oily on the surface, usually you need only increase the heat a little and stir more vigorously - or add a little wine.
The fondue that is called "moitié-moitié" or "half and half," referring to the proportions of cheese, is made with Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois.
Garlic? It’s up to you. Cut a clove in half and rub around the inside of the fondue pot before you start.
How much cheese to use? A guideline is 1.2 kgs of cheese to 6-8 people.
Black Pepper? A good addition in our opinion.
Here is the latest news from Xristina,
"It's on it's way! It will definitely be around for the first week of December or sooner. We had a difficult year this year in the area with the weather (hail), but our field did pretty well".
The new season pressing of the Greek olive oil from Xristina will arrive in December, however there is no firm date yet.
With lashings of olive oil in mind, Saveur magazine published this lovely soup recipe http://www.saveur.com/italian-bean-vegetable-soup-recipe There is no cheese angle here, but lots of oil and seasonal vegetables.
Bergblumenkäse has returned and it is on form. We are excited. Annie just tasted it this afternoon and commented,... "very smooth, buttery caramel, with sort of hazelnut, grassy flavours".
Unpasteurised organic milk (silage free), traditional rennet, covered in hayflowers and matured for 8 months.
This week we tasted the early summer 2015 production of L'Etivaz. Tasting at this time of year is usually about checking again how the cheeses from the latest season are maturing, and trying to get more of an understanding of how we think they are going to taste in September when we release them for sale.
These cheeses were made at the beginning of the season and the flavour was even better than we expected. Last year we had an issue with a few early cheeses being of good flavour but very firm. Too firm really. There were no such problems with the new seasons cheese as the texture was perfect, and combined with a delicate - yet aromatic flavour, (milk, straw, honey, smoke), the result was a thing of beauty. If I had managed to make this cheese myself, I would be full of pride.
Too good to hold until September, so there are a couple on their way to London now.
Fondue season is upon us. We have bags of Fondue Vite available from Saturday, 21st of November.
Fondue Vite from KäseSwiss
Fondue Vite is simply all the ingredients for a cheese fondue in a bag.
All you need to do is pour it into your pot, heat it up, and eat. There are no additives or preservatives just the normal ingredients of fondue mixed together in advance.
This sort of fondue mix is very common in Switzerland and you can find different versions of it in most cheese shops.
We worked hard to come up with the best Fondue we could. It contains traditional Swiss farmhouse cheeses that are fully mature so that it has a very good flavour, and we tried to source everything in Switzerland – cheese, wine, kirsch. The only non- Swiss things are cornflour and spice.
We have used a combination of Gruyère AOP, Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP and Bergkäse, - all cheeses that we sell on the counter also.
Rub the inside of your fondue pot with a cut piece of garlic. Pour in the fondue and warm over a moderate heat while constantly stirring. Once it reaches simmering point it is ready to eat. Feel free to add some more black pepper, nutmeg or paprika to suit your own taste.
You can serve it with a good crusty bread, potatoes, or even vegetables. Try dipping your bread in Kirsch first, then into the Fondue to ‘spice’ it up a bit.
Produced from the koroneiki olive variety from my family’s olive grove in the town of Kyparissia, Kalamata, Greece. Hand picked and cold pressed on the 20th of November 2014.
This year we took the olives to be pressed at a newly built unit of high standards in the area of Kyparissia that specializes in cold press olive oil. (images attached)
Time of Picking: We chose to harvest the olives early as oil made from green (unripe) olives has more polyphenols (natural antioxidants) than oil made from ripe olives.
This oil has a deep, bright green colour, rich texture and the distinctive aroma of freshly - cut olives with a slight peppery aftertaste.
An extra virgin olive oil of the finest quality with an acidity of only 0.3%.
Use it raw in salads or dressings, add it at the end of cooking or pour it over boiled vegetables.
L'Etivaz. Produced summer 2013. It is tasting fabulous right now.
It is worthwhile tasting the L'Etivaz alongside the Gruyère Alpage, and our Gruyère Vieux, - as they are all about the same age at the moment. There are a lot of similarities in the recipes of these cheeses, so at present you can taste how something that you would imagine should be quite similar in flavour, can be so startlingly different.
The Alpage and the L'Etivaz are still produced in a small copper vat, over a wood fire. The cows producing the milk are high on the Alps eating a very diverse range of fodder. Whereas the Gruyère Vieux is made of milk from cows grazing pastures at more like 900m and below, which are more uniform in their grass varieties.
As we progress through the 2013 summer production of the L'Etivaz we will also be able to taste variation in the cheese according to whether it was made early in the season (May June) or towards the end of the season (Aug Sept).
Here is our latest news.