We traveled to an Appenzeller cheese factory which had a showroom and glass observatories to be able to watch the entire commercial cheese making process, and a guided tour.
Appenzeller cheese was being made for 700 to 800 years and in 1942 a trademark was registered to be able to call the cheese Appenzeller. The milk has to come from this region, which is very hilly. The cows must have a certain part of the year on fresh grass, they can eat supplimental sugar beets and some corn, but no silage as it is not good for the cheese. Buteric acid is formed in silage and can cause the rounds of cheese to bloat. Switzerland has strict laws banning all GMO’s.
Our guide told us some interesting facts about Brown Swiss cows, which actually are an American breed, and the original Brown Swiss cow is a Braunvieh. I found this Braunvieh website which has much better information regarding this breed than my notes:
“Approximately 130 head of Braunvieh were imported into the United States from Switzerland between 1869 and 1880. This was the basis for the development of the American Brown Swiss that was declared a dairy breed in 1890, and therefore became a different breed. American Brown Swiss have since spread to Canada, Mexico and throughout the world including Switzerland. In the mid-nineteen hundreds, Original Braunviehs were imported by Mexico where they have flourished as a beef breed. In Mexico, they are used in a commercial capacity to upgrade the beef characteristics of the indigenous Zebu cattle. There, separate herdbooks are kept for the cattle, sometimes referred to as European type Brown Swiss and American Brown Swiss.”
She said that Brown Swiss are livelier and give more milk than an original Braunvieh. American Brown Swiss sperm was brought to Switzerland in the 1960’s which started the Brown Swiss in Switzerland. I can’t tell the difference, but some of the cows we saw are gigantic!
I could not help taking pictures of these bells while the tour was starting. Our guide told us that the lead cows wear these huge bells in a procession when the cows are being taken from the low lands to the high Alps in the spring.
This is the cheese factory. The milk is piped in and put in huge tanks.
Appenzeller cheese is made in this way. The culture is added to the milk and is slowly heated to 31 degrees celsius, rennet is added and the curd is set.
The curd is cut by these big curd harps and the temperature is risen to 42 degrees celsius, 15 minutes after the curd is cut.
Curd for harder cheese is cut to rice sized pieces. Appenzeller cheese curd is cut to corn kernel size. The harps kept constantly stirring the curd. The cheese master knows by feel of the curd when it is ready.
He then removes some of the whey and then warm water is added to the curd, constantly stirring. The curd is cooled to 40 degrees celsius.
The curds are then drained and placed into the cheese forms. The whey is reduced to a syrup and sent to pig farms.
The pressing phase lasts for 45 minutes. The first phase is 15 minutes at 70 to 90 kilos of pressure.
The cheese is then turned out by this robot and then turned and put into a cheese form.
He stacks the forms on top of teach other.
A cheese pass, or label, with the date and info is put on each cheese.
The first ripening in the plastic forms is 20 hours to drain at 25 degrees celsius. Then the cheeses are added to a 20% salt brine bath, out of the plastic rings, and remain in the brine for 48 hours.
The cheese is ripened on red spruce wood boards. The cheese is washed in brine and turned each day for 10 days.
This was their cheese robot which then rubbed the cheeses with a secret recipe of wine and herbs and turned them 2 to 3 times a week.
They make 400 cheeses a day from 6am to 4pm.
and this robot would automatically pull out each board of cheese
and turn them and put them back to age from 2 to 6 months. Tested after 3 months for their classic cheese. Four months aging is their most popular cheese, and the extra is aged 6 months. One wheel is 7 kilos and 25 franks a kilo.
What an amazing tour and an incredible place not to be missed. Next up is the incredible lunch we had there and then the historic cheese museum where we watched a cheese demonstration made in the ancient way over an open fire.