The Cheese Road in Bregenz Forest – In the land of cheese

Between hills, summits and Alpine pastures, Bregenz Forest lies in western Austria – a region famous for traditional cheesemaking.

The milk makes the cheese

// From the heart cheesemaker – Karl-Josef Fuchs at his favorite hobby

Karl-Josef Fuchs worked successfully as a hotelier and chef for decades. Then he discovered his passion for cheese and opened his own creamery. In this interview, he tells us how he became a cheesemaker and what makes a good cheese.

You were a successful chef for many years. What made you want to work with cheese?
As a chef, my work always involved food so there was a natural connection there. An acquaintance of mine had opened a creamery and encouraged me to try it as well. He said, “You’re a chef and you have good milk, you can do it too.” So, in combination with my cooking, I taught myself.

What kinds of cheese do you produce?
We have three different cheese varieties. Our mountain cheese is a typical upland hard cheese, the “Obermünstertaler” is a soft cheese and our “Molkenziger” is a fresh cheese, an Alemannic ricotta. As we’re a small creamery, our cheese is primarily produced for our guests and for a few selected hotels and colleagues in the region.

What makes a good cheese?
For good cheese you need good milk. But that in turn is determined by a number of factors that all have to come together. In addition to a good dairy cow breed, you need the right climate, the right feed, good soil – just like the terrain for wine. And, of course, for production you need some special equipment like the copper kettle, the rennet, and the molds for the cheese; but as the base product, the milk is most important.

What kind of milk do you use to produce your cheese?
Our cheese is made from milk from the Hinterwald cows typical for our region. The cows graze in an unimproved pasture of a farmer here in Münstertal where they live in harmony with nature. A variety of grasses and herbs grow in the pastures and the regular cow grazing keeps the pastures in good condition. This completely natural nutrition is ideal for the cows and this is reflected by the quality of the milk. No artificial flavor in this world can copy what a mountain meadow brings to the table – luckily.

What gives the cheese its flavor?
The cheese tastes differently depending on the time of year. This is because the cows’ food also varies throughout the year. The fresher and lusher pastures in spring and summer increase the fat content in the milk. Spring milk can contain 4.6% fat while winter milk normally has 3.7%. What the cows eat also affects color. The chlorophyll in the plants that the cows eat make summer cheese far yellower in color than winter cheese.

Can extra flavor be added to the cheese?
The less I fiddle with the cheese, the more you can taste nature. With hard cheeses, you can’t later change the flavor. But you do have to take exact care of the cheese while it’s maturing: the cheese is turned two to three times a week and rubbed with the salt brush. That’s the only change in flavor that I add at this stage. Salting is a cheesemaker’s signature.

 

// Pressing, forming, maturing – the different steps of cheese production
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