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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 5 - Say Cheese!

Tuesday, Day 5:
We only did one thing yesterday, but in my opinion, it was one of the coolest things we've seen here. We got to tour a little local cheese factory. I hesitate using the word factory, because it is a small, six-man operation, and a lot of the work is still done by hand. It was fascinating learning how these local dairies and cheese makers work. The farmers bring their milk to the factory twice daily after milkings - straight from the cow, no pasteurization or processing of any kind. The raw milk is made into cheese in less than 24 hours after it comes out of the cow. It is cooled, re-heated, and the enzymes and bacteria are added. Then it is placed in a large machine that separates the whey from the curd. Before the cheese is pressed into the molds, each cheese is given a tag with the date it was made, the maker's name, and an INDIVIDUAL serial number, so every cheese is truly a work of art. Here, the owner (right) and his apprentice are putting the tags in the molds.

Then the top of the press comes down and presses the cheese into the molds.

After the cheese is pressed for 30 minutes, they turn every mold by hand so they can press them again for 40 minutes.

After being pressed, the cheese goes into a brine solution for 24 hours. Ok, this part was really interesting. Did you know that the softness or hardness of a cheese depends upon how long they leave it in the brine? That's why hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano are saltier than soft cheese. Cool, huh! After it comes out of the brine, it is placed on Red Swiss Pine boards (no other wood works - it gives the cheese a bad color.) and then into the cellar for ripening.
The cheese below is called Tete de Moine. It is a very unique cheese made only in this tiny little region of Switzerland that we are in. There are very strict codes and regulations that the local farmers have to follow to be able to sell their milk for Tete de Moine, and the name is regulated throughout the world so that nobody else can call their cheese Tete de Moine. This stuff is DIVINE too. They shave it, not slice or grate it, with a traditional wheel. There will be lots of it at the wedding, so I'll post what a Tete de Moine rosette looks like then. The owner was telling us that this stuff sells in New York City for $100 a pound (these cheeses are a little over 2 pounds each.)

This is the cheese-makers own special cheese. He's won several gold medals for his cheeses in national competitions. Can you believe I get to buy and eat this stuff? How did I get so lucky?

The cheese above isn't ripe enough yet. Once it gets to a certain stage (some cheeses in here were over a year old) they coat it with an herb mix to enhance the flavor and then ripen it some more.

This photo is specifically for C's brother in law who loves Gruyere cheese....

We had Gruyere today, and I still like the Tete de Moine better! Ok, twist my arm, and I'll eat more of this stuff too...

This cheese cave holds over 400,000 cheeses. Can you imagine if any mice got in here?

The finished products in his store. The tag says, "Swiss Product from the Corgemont Cheesery." Coregemont is the village the wedding will be in. The bride's father sells his milk for Tete de Moine cheese, so I feel pretty darn special to have seen this whole process first-hand from cow to store.

Ah, cheese! American cheddar will never be enough after this... Hey, if anyone wants to know more about Tete de Moine cheese, go to http://www.tetedemoine.ch/. If you click on dairies, we went to the Corgemont dairy!


Ann Marie said...

I just got on your blog, and was soo surprised to see you blogging from Europe! You have time for that? It's smart... When you get home it never seems that you can remember it all, so it's really a good idea. I love that your capturing so many aspects of it all. I loved reading the previous posts, and I covet all of the cheese! I love it to, and hope that you eat some for me! :)

Can't wait to see the wedding photos too!

Heather Cook said...

I love all of them. Those horse pictures are pretty cool! I hope that you are having the time of your life! I can't say enough good things about you! You rock, and then you keep on rockin' harder! I love it!

Matt and Jamie Broderick said...

Holy cow girl! Your in Europe for a wedding! You are one lucky photographer! And just look at all that cheese! Your making this pregnant girl hungry.