Skagit Food Co-op blog:

the Cheese Whisperer

The Cheese Whisperer: A Trio of Alpkäse (Swiss Cheese)

The Skagit Valley Food Co-op is one of a select few American grocers to participate in the Adopt-an-Alp program. Our Meat & Cheese Manager Galen purchases small batches of handmade artisan cheese from Swiss families who live and work directly on their own Alp, or mountain. Click here to read more about the program and our previously adopted Alp cheeses (alpkäse).

These Alp cheeses celebrate traditional Swiss agriculture, especially the concept of transhumance – people moving with herds in accordance with the seasons. Just in time for the holidays, check out our outstanding selection of imported Swiss specialties. Read on for profiles and recipes.

Cinderella

raw cow’s milk ~ aged at least 5 months ~ from Switzerland

After years of local success, Cinderella finally comes to Washington State! This unique raw cow’s milk is aged for 5 months and laced with distinctive streaks of charcoal and sea salt. Made in the western, German speaking part of Switzerland called “lake land,” Cinderella cheese is only made with organic milk from two local farms. Crumbly and creamy, its flavor is salty, smoky and complex.

During its affinage – or aging process – Cinderella cheese gets dry rubbed with a coarse sea salt from Cyprus and vegetable charcoal. This treatment eventually results in grayish streaking across the interior paste of the cheese. The maker, Köbi Beer, suggests to either serve this cheese shaved paper thin, or to cut off the top horizontally and then just dig out small nuggets (similar as done with a Parmigiano). Serve Cinderella as a finishing cheese, sprinkle a bit on salads, soups, rice dishes or roasted vegetables.

Alpkaese Imbrig

raw cow’s milk ~ aged at least 16 months ~ from Switzerland

Rüedu and Margrit Jordi have been making cheese on Alp Imbrig for over 20 years, and they’ve recently handed over their farm down to their son Martin at the beginning of 2017. During the summer, up on the Alp, they still take charge of the cheese making, caring for the animals and running their small restaurant.

Our batch of Imbrig cheese was made directly on the Alp exclusively from the sweet summer milk of mountain grazing cows in 2016. Similar to a fine aged parmesan, this cheese has a firm, dense texture and deep, nutty flavor. Enjoy it sliced at room temperature with fruit preserves and pickles, or shave it thinly over roasted vegetables or pasta.

Glarner Alpkaese from Alp Heuboden

raw cow’s milk ~ aged at least 12 months ~ from Switzerland

Made in the central Swiss canton of Glarus, Glarner Alpkaese is the newest of all Swiss AOP cheeses, founded in 2014. The cheese is made according to strict rules by Fritz and Anna Tschudi, fourth generation farmers on Alp Heuboden. They have seven children, and their son Marco and his wife Annelies, work side by side through the entire summer.

Together the family brings up a small herd of 70 cows to graze and milk directly on the Alp. In order to be labeled Glarner Alpkaese AOP, the cheese must be made according to strict rules and traditional limitations. No centrifuges are allowed, no artificial heating or cooling, no short cuts. All cheese is made over an open fire, and brought down to the communal cellar at the age of 4 weeks.

Glarner Alpkäse is washed with a simple brine during its first four weeks, then transferred to the cellar, where is ages further. The finished cheese has a dry, brown rind and an ivory to yellow paste with few round holes. As it ages, the cheese’s flavors can vary from milky mild with a hint of acidity all the way to rustic, herbal and toasty. Melt Glarner Alpkase in quiche, sandwiches, or cheese sauce (read on for our recipe).

 

Photo by Sydney Oland

Onion, Bacon & Swiss Strata

This recipe makes a great family style brunch, or enjoy it’s comfort food vibe for dinner, with a green side salad. Recipe adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1 pound) baguette, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 3 small onions, finely sliced (about 3 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup sour cream

Directions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 400°F. Place cut up baguette on a sheet tray and back until bread begins to crisp but has not browned, about 6 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a large bowl. Heat butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until melted then add sliced onions. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until onion are evenly browned and begin to taste sweet, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then toss with dried bread. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is cooked, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined plate. Add cooked bacon and cheese to bread mixture.

Butter an 8- by 11-inch baking dish with remaining butter and add bread mixture. Combine milk, eggs, and sour cream in a bowl and beat until combined. Season with salt and pepper then pour over bread. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. The following day adjust rack to middle position and preheat to 375°F, bake strata until browned and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Photo from Zestuous

Swiss Alpkäse Cheese Sauce

Serve this multi purpose cheese sauce to steamed broccoli, potatoes, pasta or rice, or use as a quick fondue for bread. Rich in flavor, it adds calcium and protein.

Ingredients:

  • tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups grated Swiss cheese
  • tablespoons flour
  • teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • cups half ‘n’ half cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: hot sauce

Directions:

Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter. Whisk in flour, cook, while stirring, for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and slowly add the cream, stirring until thickened. Add the Swiss cheese, Worcestershire and (if using) hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.