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Organic mountain cheese made according to good old tradition

The production of tasty cheese and healthy dairy products has a long tradition in South Tyrol. The first dairy cooperative was founded in San Candido in 1875, with many more to follow over time.

Who has the best cheese?
Who has the best cheese?
on the Alm
on the Alm - Cristian Bortes - CC BY 2.0
Cattle on the Alm
Cattle on the Alm - Photo: Madeleine Schäfer - GNU-FDL
Villanderer Alm
Villanderer Alm

That the clocks go a little slower high up on the mountain does not harm the South Tyrolean quality cheese, on the contrary. Experienced cheese makers pay attention to the exact compliance with the ripening times and a high quality level of the cheese cellar. The recipes for the delicacies made from milk are passed down from generation to generation. Naturalness and purity are considered the highest principles. For example, the famous gray cheese is only produced using natural cheese cultures. Cheese production used to mainly serve the utilization and preservation of milk. Nowadays, South Tyrolean cheese specialties are known far beyond the national borders. They are used in modern cuisine to refine dishes, but also make a good impression as a spicy wine accompaniment.

The starting product for cheese production is fresh milk from South Tyrolean mountain farms. It is particularly rich, as the cows can graze undisturbed in the great outdoors and are kept in a species-appropriate manner. Anyone who supplies South Tyrolean mountain milk must meet strict requirements. This includes compliance with the South Tyrolean genetic engineering law, which not only provides for the labeling of genetically modified products, but also prohibits the use of genetic engineering in feeding and throughout the entire production process. On the other hand, South Tyrolean milk goes through a strict control chain, which extends from the farmer through milk processing to delivery. But how does fresh milk become a tasty loaf of cheese? Basically, there are two types of milk thickening. Milk coagulates both under the influence of rennet (ferment from calf stomachs) and when adding lactic acid bacteria. Once the milk has thickened, it is reduced to the so-called cheese curd. The consistency of the cheese curd varies depending on the end product. Then the cheese maker must ensure that the whey separates from the thickened milk. Either a centrifuge is used for this or the mass is put into molds under pressure. The cheese is then immersed in salt. Then the cheese mass is dried and taken to the ripening chamber. There, the cheese rests for several weeks, months, sometimes even over a year, depending on the variety.

Cheese varieties

Whether it's tangy gray cheese or delicate mold cheese - cheese lovers get their money's worth in South Tyrol. The range of traditionally produced cheese varieties is diverse:

  • Cream cheese: this type of cheese should not be missing from a hearty snack. Cream cheese is processed and eaten fresh, as the name suggests. It does not mature and has no rind. It is often refined with alpine herbs or small vegetable pieces.
  • Soft cheese: soft cheese varieties are also produced in the South Tyrolean alpine pastures. They mature thanks to mold or the so-called smear-ripening. The texture of the soft cheese is creamy, and the taste ranges from mild-fine to spicy.
  • Semi-hard cheese: the most well-known representatives of this type include the spicy mountain cheese and the nutty alpine cheese. They are made from raw milk and taste good both on their own and in warm dishes.
  • Hard cheese: hard cheese varieties such as Parmesan or Pecorino have their firm consistency due to a low water content. The older they are, the more spicy and intense they become in flavor.
  • Sour milk cheese: sour milk cheese products are made from skimmed milk and are therefore also very popular in diet cuisine. The intensely flavored gray cheese is the most famous sour milk cheese specialty in the country. It shows grayish nuances in color, hence the name. The extremely spicy cheese is a must for any alpine snack, and it can also develop its aroma in warm dishes such as pressed dumplings.

Cheese festival

For all gourmets and cheese lovers, there is a special insider tip: every year, a 3-day cheese festival takes place in the Tauferer Ahrntal. Local producers and international cheese manufacturers present their specialties. Visitors have the agony of choice from over 1,000 different cheese varieties. In addition to guided cheese tastings, there is also a varied program for young and old. The highlight of the festival: top South Tyrolean chefs create true culinary delights from cheese and cheese products.

Bäuerin Gretl A tip from the farmer Gretl, who runs a farm in Tyrol with her family.
More Tyrolean tips from farmer Gretl

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