From milk to cheese

The spiciest cheese in Switzerland has been produced for more than 700 years in the idyllic mountains of the Appenzellerland: Appenzeller® cheese is made in 52 local cheese dairies following a traditional recipe and tended with the secretive herbal brine. Here you can find out how milk is made into cheese step by step.

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Natural milk

They are an intrinsic part of the Appenzellerland: the cows, whose natural raw milk is used to make Appenzeller® cheese. They are fed exclusively with rich herbal grass and hay. It supplies the basic ingredients for high quality natural milk. The cows and cowsheds are inspected regularly and the quality of the milk is monitored continuously.

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In the local cheese dairy

Twice a day the farmers bring the fresh milk, which is still warm, to one of 52 local cheese dairies. Here the master cheese makers make it into spicy Appenzeller® cheese – using an old artisan tradition and with modern equipment. It requires experience, care and a lot of manual labour.

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Checking and skimming

After the master cheese makers have checked the quality of the milk supplied, it is fed into large storage containers. Part of the raw milk is skimmed because the fat content of Appenzeller® cheese is determined precisely. Subsequently the skimmed milk is mixed with whole milk and collected in a cheese vat.

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Stirring and renneting

The cheese-making process begins in the cheese vat, which holds approximately 6,000 litres of milk. The master cheese maker heats the milk up through constant stirring and adds rennet and lactic acid bacteria. These act as a natural leavening agent. As a true natural product, there are no preservatives in Appenzeller® cheese.

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Cutting and heating

After 30 to 40 minutes in the cheese vat the milk curdles into a curd and is cut with the cheese harp. In doing so small grains are separated, the so-called curd, from the watery whey. The curd is gently heated through stirring and this separates water out of the grains.

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Shaping the cheese

As soon as the desired consistency is reached, the curd is filled into circular containers, pressed down several times and turned. When sufficient liquid has been pressed out, the master cheese maker lets the fresh cheese wheels drain on shelves. A metal ring holds the cheese in shape as it is still soft.

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Sealing quality

Every wheel of Appenzeller® cheese is given a cheese certificate. This states the cheese dairy number, the guarantee of origin, the production date and a consecutive number. The cheese certificate is used as a seal of quality so that the origin of a cheese wheel can be checked at any time.

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Off to the brine bath

When they are one day old the cheese wheels are placed in a brine bath. Here they release liquid, absorb salt and form a rind: three important conditions for the taste, shelf life and ability to be stored of Appenzeller® cheese.

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Flavour needs time

The cheese wheels mature in the cheese cellar for several months to reach their full flavour: at a temperature of 15° Celsius and relative humidity of 90 percent. The master cheese makers turn the wheels regularly and tend them with the secretive herbal brine.

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A closely guarded secret

The unique flavour of Appenzeller® cheese is attributed to the herbal brine. It is absorbed into the rind and gives the cheese its unmistakable flavour. The precise composition of the herbal brine is a closely guarded secret and is passed from generation to generation.

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Careful follow-up monitoring

When the cheese merchants accept the cheese wheels, they carefully check the quality of the cheese. They assess its colour, flavour and the holes. Only the best quality reaches the shelves and the consumer.

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Looking over the shoulder

In the Appenzeller demonstration cheese dairy one can see at close hand how milk is made into cheese. Anyone who likes looking over the shoulder of a master cheese maker, smelling the secretive herbal brine or even wants to touch it, is in the right place here. Entry is free of charge.

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