KASESWISS LEADS THE CELEBRATION AS SWITZERLAND'S ALPINE PASTURE SEASON SECURES UNESCO INTANGIBLE CULTURAL HERITAGE STATUS
Zürich, 13 December 2023 – KÄSESWISS, a trailblazer in the importation of Swiss alpage cheese to the UK since its inception in 2003, proudly acknowledges the recent UNESCO recognition of Switzerland's "Alpine Pasture Season" as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
This prestigious inclusion marks a significant moment for Swiss cultural heritage, celebrating the centuries-old Alpine Pasture Season tradition that has been an integral part of the country's identity. Natural alpage cheese is only made possible by a special combination of environment, animals, and people, so this recognition helps to bring an understanding of the importance of alpine cheese to a greater audience. Käseswiss, having played a pivotal role in introducing Swiss alpage cheese to the UK, stands at the forefront of preserving and promoting these time-honoured traditions.
Since its establishment, Käseswiss has been committed to not only providing high-quality alpage cheese but also serving as a cultural ambassador, highlighting the importance of maintaining and cherishing alpine farming traditions. The company's dedication to showcasing the uniqueness of high-altitude summer produced cheese aligns seamlessly with the essence of the recently honoured Alpine Pasture Season.
Käseswiss extends heartfelt congratulations to Switzerland for this well-deserved recognition by UNESCO. The inclusion of the Alpine Pasture Season on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list is a testament to the rich tapestry of Swiss heritage. We hope that this addition to the cultural heritage list will enable alpine cheesemakers to continue the legacy of their family traditions, following Alpine farming practices and ethical animal husbandry in the production of extraordinary summer alpage cheese.
Alpage cheese, also known as Alpine cheese, refers to a category of cheese that is traditionally produced in the Alpine regions of Europe, including Switzerland, France, and Italy. There are several characteristics of genuine Alpage cheese:
1. Origin: Authentic Alpage cheese is made in the high-altitude Alpine regions, where cows graze on diverse alpine pastures filled with wildflowers, herbs, and other unique vegetation. The specific region of origin can affect the cheese's taste and characteristics.
2. Raw Milk: Traditional Alpage cheese is often made from raw milk, meaning it is not pasteurised before cheesemaking. This preserves the unique flavours and beneficial microorganisms of the milk.
3. Terroir: The terroir, or the specific environmental factors of the region, significantly influences the flavour and characteristics of Alpage cheese. The combination of high-altitude pastures, local flora, and climate all contribute to the cheese's unique taste.
4. Artisanal Production: Genuine Alpage cheese is typically crafted in small-scale, alpine dairies by skilled cheesemakers who follow time-honoured methods passed down through generations. These methods emphasise heritage, craftsmanship and attention to detail.
5. Cows' Diet: The cows that provide the milk for Alpage cheese graze on a natural diet of Alpine vegetation that flourishes during the summer months. This diet imparts distinctive flavours and aromas to the cheese, making it rich and complex. There are over 150 different types of plants in the alpine meadows.
6. Seasonal Production: Alpage cheese is only produced during the summer months when the cows are taken up to high-altitude pastures. The cheese is aged for several months to years, and the length of aging contributes to the cheese's flavour and texture.
7. Unique Varieties: Different Alpine regions and countries produce their own unique varieties of Alpage cheese. Examples include Swiss Heritage Gruyère Alpage, L’Etivaz, and Bernese Alp cheese and Hobelkäse, to name a few.
8. AOP and PDO Designations: Some Alpage cheeses have received protected designation of origin (PDO) or appellation d'origine protégée (AOP) status, which ensures that the cheese is produced according to specific standards and regulations, further guaranteeing its authenticity. This is a very important development as the public are often misinformed about the origins and authenticity of the cheese they buy.
9. Handcrafted Aesthetics: The presentation of genuine Alpage cheese often reflects the heritage and traditional craftsmanship of the region in which it is made.
10. The Jura region is not the Alps or an alpine region.
In summary, genuine Alpage cheese is a product of the Alpine regions, made from raw milk that is not transported, only in the summer months - influenced by the local terroir and crafted with traditional methods. These characteristics make it a unique and highly sought-after cheese with a distinct taste and quality.
Some define them as artisanal cheeses made with raw milk and without the use of selected starters. In recent years, even small-scale, raw milk productions are increasingly employing industrial starters selected by a few large multinationals in their manufacturing processes, which undoubtedly “help” to manage cheesemaking more safely but, on the other hand, result in a trivialization of the cheese.
Milks of the highest quality too often end up being processed with the use of the now famous “sachets” of starter cultures. The result is the general levelling of the playing field in terms of cheese quality and characteristics. However in Switzerland many cheesemakers are working without selected starters but producing their own milk-graft or whey-graft, in order to preserve their microbial biodiversity and offer consumers an authentic expression of their areas of origin. The idea of a natural cheese is positive however it comes alongside other important factors. There is not only milk, rennet and salt, but the work of a milk producer who is attentive to animal welfare, respectful of the environment, and who protects biodiversity, including the invisible biodiversity formed by thousands of different microorganisms from the pasture to the dairy. Producing cheeses without industrial ferments is possible, and desirable, if we are to avoid a general homogenization of the cheese panorama.
Slow Food Cheese 2023 is on this week in the village of Bra, Italy. https://cheese.slowfood.it/en/
This years theme is The taste of the meadows. In the permanent meadows and mountain pastures, hundreds of different plant species coexist—a true feast for cows, goats, and sheep that consume them, transforming them into energy and producing high-quality milk. It is also a precious bounty for pollinating insects.
This is especially true of Alpine pastures which are grazed in the summer months in Switzerland, and we differentiate further between "mountain pastures" and "alpine pastures" in that Alpine are grazed only in summer and have a much greater diversity of plants. In Switzerland we also differentiate between cheese that comes from summer Alpine grazed animals - where the cheese is also made up in the same area that the animals are grazing. Whereas milk that is transported down to a nearby village or town will not give cheese with the summer alpage definition.
Embracing the diversity of plant species available to be grazed !
The Master of Cheese film which will be showing at Slow Food Cheese in Bra, Italy on the 16th of September, is the result of an idea and hard work of Myriam Zumbühl - Co-Director & Producer Myriam is a writer and media producer. She is the founder of Harvest Productions with its mission to inspire the world for positive change. From presenting on National Public Radio, to inventing formats for film and tv: Her passion is to tell stories from the heart. Master of Cheese is such a story.
10 years ago Producer Myriam Zumbühl walked into Willi Schmid’s dairy. Watching him taste the milk was all it took for her to realize that Willi Schmids talent is unique and needs to be told in cinema. Together with Director Simon Steuri she was granted an intimate view into Willi Schmids work process and private life. The journey was often challenging but always characterised by respect and joy for nature, animals and sustainable production.
ABOUT MASTER OF CHEESE
Master of Cheese tells the story of one of the world's best cheesemaker who makes his cheese in a dairy the size of a living room. Willi Schmid has an extraordinary talent: just by the taste of the milk he knows what the cow ate. He knows every cow by name, every plant in his valley and produces cheese with pure intuition. His talents and boundless work ethic has allowed him to produce outstanding cheese in demand across the globe.
Master of Cheese highlights a powerful model of artisanship and sustainable food production. Willi Schmid dared to listen to Mother Nature’s call and was willing to do the work it takes to master a craft. A touching life story, inspiring and educational, this film is about honest food for the plate that can inspire the world for the urgent change we need.
A STORY TO INSPIRE THE WORLD FOR CHANGE
Willi Schmid’s approach to cheesemaking embodies how a sustainable product can be crafted through respect for nature, community with those you work with, and perfection of craft. He shares important insights into how honoring craft and collaboration, rather than exploitation, led him to become one of the world’s leading cheesemakers.
Featuring breathtaking cinematography, captivating characters and an urgent message to heed Mother Nature’s call, this film ultimately tells an inspiring story about human resilience and the power of craft. Master of Cheese provides us with a vital blueprint for sustainable food production, better living and a healthier planet.
CREATIVES & PRODUCTION
Alongside Producer Myriam Zumbühl, Master of Cheese is the work of Simon Steuri - Director. Simon is an award winning commercial, documentary and feature film director as well as a screenwriter. Born in Bern, he has been working and living in Los Angeles for the past decade. His love for nature and his engagement for a sustainable, healthy future of humanity is often reflected in his work.
We are passionate about our Vacherin Fribourgeois from Marsens in Switzerland. I was re-reading the words from Mr Marc-Henri Horner of Fromagerie de Marsens about milk recently and thought to share his piece of writing here as it gives valuable insight into the production of the milk they use for the making of Vacherin Fribourgeois. I have translated this using DeepL, which on the surface seems to have done a good job, however you can access the original French version on the website of Fromagerie de Marsens directly.
Our cheese dairy receives milk from fifteen producers who farm the land within a 3 km radius of the dairy. The farmers know the soil they work, often for generations. These farmers own and care for meadows of exceptional quality. The diversity of the flora of these natural meadows gives the milk an extraordinary richness. The raw material is perfect for processing into Vacherin fribourgeois AOC or Gruyères AOC, not to mention our other products, all of which are made by hand.
In addition to this work of maintaining the land, there is the very demanding task of monitoring the herd. Cattle breeding, mainly of the Holstein and Red-Holstein breeds, requires the farmer to be with his livestock every day. The cows are milked morning and evening. So there is a long way to go before the milk arrives. Milk; this nourishing material necessary to all newborn mammals, which man has known how to exploit to feed himself. He knew how to transform it and preserve it. The farmers who produce this milk are familiar with this difficult, complex and vulnerable material. The care given to the cows is essential, a cow in poor health will give a lower quality milk. Vigilance is therefore essential.
For some years now, the farming profession has been in constant evolution; farmers are under pressure from an economic environment that is often unfavourable to them. The number of active farms in Switzerland has decreased considerably. Small, traditional cheese dairies like ours make it possible to maintain traditional agriculture while ensuring a decent income for milk producers.
The labour force that used to be found on the farms has almost disappeared. Agricultural estates are expanding, facilities are being modernised, and the size of the machines is sometimes impressive. Of course, the infrastructure is changing, but this has no effect on the quality of the land, the grassland or the crops. All the farmers in the villages of Marsens and Vuippens work according to the strict standards of integrated production (IP). This practice consists of observing production rules that guarantee the quality of the products while being respectful of the environment. In Gruyère, and in Switzerland in general, we are involved in extensive agriculture, which guarantees quality for the consumer.
Mr Marc-Henri Horner
A new film is currently in pre-production about Willi Schmid, a very talented cheesemaker in Switzerland. The film is being made by Harvest Productions which was founded by Myriam Zumbühl. It is inspiring that Harvest Productions have captured the life and work of a Swiss cheesemaker.
"By the taste of milk he knows what he cow ate. He knows every cow and every plant in his area. And the resilience he lives his life is moving - and truly inspiring. The way he lives and works can teach us so much about how to live a good life. And make the world a better place."
Here is the link to the trailer: https://vimeo.com/137257153
We look forward to it's release in 2021.
A new initiative from Käseswiss
Discover a unique range of cheeses created high in the Alps. Here at this altitude, farmers graze small herds of animals on lush summer pastures and craft cheese using traditional methods. Characterised by intricate flavours resulting from the diverse plants of the meadows the animals graze on, each cheese in this special selection is a true expression of its mountainside origins.
What makes Natural Alpine Cheese unique - A high altitude creation
Natural Alpine Cheese is made possible by a special combination of environment, animals, and people.
Beneath the winter snows of the high Alps lies an underlay rich with life, patiently waiting for its moment in the sun. As snows recede in spring, mountain farmers journey with their animals high into the Alps to take advantage of the brief but intense burst of growth. For a few short months, small herds can be found dotted across the steep slopes, grazing on lush summer meadows alive with an incredible array of plants.
The animals grazing in this environment produce fragrant alpine milk which is used to make cheese right there on the mountainside. Housed in traditional chalets, farmers make cheese using copper vats over open wood fires, following methods from centuries gone by.
Living conditions are tough, days are long, work is done by hand but every farmer we meet loves to be there nonetheless. Each year we visit them to share a moment and taste their production. Our selection brings together cheese that is truly unique to place and time.
Selection by Hand
We have developed our own rigorous selection criteria, that ensure our Natural Alpine Cheeses represent the best of the craft.
We only include cheeses that are:
Good cheese starts with grass
The unique combination of climate, soil conditions and sun exposure of the Alps have created an extraordinary biodiversity of plants which flourish in the warmer months. What looks like a simple summer meadow is in fact a complex ecosystem that has been nurtured over the centuries by traditional pastoral and agricultural activities. There can be over 100 different varieties of plants above 1400 metres. Animals dine on this plethora of grasses, flowers and other species and it is this diversity of diet that leads to such a special cheese that captures the flavour of its mountain terroir.
A product of contented animals and pure, raw milk
Alpine cheesemakers continue the legacy of their family traditions, following Alpine farming practices and ethical animal husbandry.
Summertime for animals on the Alp is a time of enjoyment and relaxation. Grass-fed, they move across the slopes unhurried, filling their lungs with clean mountain air while eating fresh, nutritious food. Herds are small, and each animal is known to its farmer by name and the ring of its bell.
Farmers use raw milk and often self-produced starter cultures to make their cheese, allowing nature to do its amazing work with as little intervention as possible. The result is authentic alpine cheese, produced by people working in tune with nature.
Supporting a centuries old craft
Cheesemaking on the Alp is a difficult, time consuming craft performed by families who often trace back generations. It is a ‘slow food’ process that draws together many crucial aspects of life – the senses, memory, tradition, everyday habits and professional skill.
However, like many rural communities around the world, the Alps face depopulation as people abandon their traditional ways of life. With this migration, their knowledge, skills, culture and values vanish too.
Having developed personal relationships with many mountain farming families, it’s extremely important to us to support, by buying their cheese, an ancestral way of life, recipes and techniques. By bringing you this Alpine cheese we strive to help maintain their traditions, support their culture to flourish and continue the unique biodynamics of high alpine pastures.
The healthiest cheese
Alpine cheese is the best type of cheese for your health.
The quality of milk is the direct result of the quality of what the animal eats. We are what we eat. Researchers have proven that seasonally produced alpine cheeses are not only highest in omega-3 fats such as ALA, they also have relatively low concentrations of arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that can exacerbate inflammation in the body.
Furthermore, Alpine cheeses made from the milk of grass-fed cows have a more favourable fatty acid profile than all other cheese types, with the highest concentrations of a trans fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been linked with reduced cancer risk in a number of studies.
Alpine farming is not intensive. In Switzerland, for example, no herbicides or fungicides are allowed to be used on the Alpine pastures.
".......The reason that every generation since World War Two has enjoyed access to cheap food, cheap fuel and cheap goods is precisely because we – collectively – generated these fragile global just-in-time supply chains to drive down prices."
A thought provoking piece written in "The Consciousness of Sheep".By Tim Watkins. One positive aspect of this Covid-19 crisis is that there seems to be an increase in the discussion about quality of food and the question of production processes.
L'Etivaz production, summer 2019. Retaining the old methods of Alpine production.