My apologies for length since last posting… to paraphrase John Lennon… “Life got in the way while I was making other plans”…
I have reviews backed up the kazoo but wanted to start with my “new, favorite” cheese… Alp Blossom.
We all get the question “What’s your favorite cheese?’ when chatting with friends and family or behind the counter… a difficult, at best, question to answer. I like to reply, “usually the last one I tasted”… which is true and then I add… “My favorite style is aged, sheep milk cheeses”… but these days the Alpine cheeses coming out of Europe are quickly rising in favor with me.
Although the following bit of history doesn’t have anything to do with the creation of Alp Blossom, in a way it does…
From 1914 to 1999 The Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizer Kaseunion AG) acted as a cartel, controlling and limiting production of cheese in Switzerland to Emmenthal, Gruyere and Sbrinz. The cartel/union bought the entire production, set the prices and controlled the marketing. While successfully marketing Fondue and Raclette ( before 1914 mainly regional favorites), they stifled the creativity of many cheesemakers, who could only survive by making one of the three cheeses that the cartel controlled. After it ceased in 1999, cheesemakers in Switzerland were able to “play” with milk and create diverse cheeses.
So how does this piece of history relate to the cheeses made in surrounding Alpine regions outside of Switzerland? While I don’t have an effing clue, I can suggest that the cartel’s control and tentacles reached way beyond the Swiss borders… but just a guess on my part…
Thanks to cheese nerds such as Adam Moskowitz at Columbia Cheese, who have the passion and resources to find these smaller, creative cheesemakers, we now get to fall in love with new cheeses from the Alps every year. You can even “Adopt an Alp” to assist in the continuation of creativity among our Alpine cheesemakers and support transhumance (future ACS CCP® exam taker… you need to know the meaning of this term… trust me…). Did you know in Switzerland Swiss cheese is simply called cheese… well Fromage or Kaas but I digress from the subject at hand…
This past September, as National Ambassador of Kelly’s Jelly, I headed to Atlanta to attend the Institut du Fromage, the Atlanta Foodservice Expo and then sling some cheese and jellies at the Atlanta Cheese Festival. Columbia Cheese had a booth at the Expo manned by Glenn Hills and Jonathan Richardson. Jonathan offered me samples of some of their cheeses and one was Alp Blossom. While every cheese I tasted was of superior quality, Alp Blossom blew me away… so much so that I couldn’t get it out of my mind… I sent Glenn a text asking where I could buy it and he slipped me a wedge to bring home… to quote Irving Berlin… “Heaven, I’m in heaven”…
I served the cheese to The Man and Miss Anne with Kelly’s Jelly Cranberry Vanilla Preserves (a limited edition only available this time of year) and a Monger-Made spread sent my way by Nick Bayne, Winner of the New York 2015 Cheesemonger Invitational. You can find Nick slinging cheese these days as Head Cheesemonger at Aaron Foster’s Brooklyn Cheese Shop, Foster Sundry.
Rich and dense and milky sweet, Alp Blossom is sublime… floral and grassy at the rind which, as mentioned above, is coated in trimmings of the grasses and flowers that grow in the Summertime Alps… some of the same flowers and grasses the cows who produce the milk, eat. The interior paste is beefy and nutty, similar to Gruyere and Comte but a bit sweeter. The Man swooned over the Cranberry Vanilla Preserves pairing and Miss Anne, who is eigthy-eight years young and quite the adventurous eater, loved Nick’s spicy pumpkin spread with the cheese. As for the 34 Degrees Natural Crisps, Miss Anne could eat them all day long and die happy… I added a few almonds to the plates and three slices of prosciutto scrunched up to look like blossoms…”Dinner is served”.
Alp Blossom is a perfect example of terroir (another ACS CCP® exam term to know). From the Hay Belt of the Alps, which spans Eastern Switzerland, Southern Germany and Western Austria, Alp Blossom is made from the raw milk of thirty-four contributing herds of Brown Swiss and Braunvieh breeds. It is produced and aged at Sennerei Huban in Austria. After six months, the ten pound wheels are transported to the caves at Kaeskuche in Bavaria where it is covered with the dried edible flowers and herbs from the surrounding Alpine meadows that host the summer transhumance of the Alpine cattle. Sennerei is a Coop established in 1901 and uses most of its milk to make Emmenthal. Lucky for us, they use the extra milk to create these wonders of nature, one of which is Alp Blossom.*
In researching for this post, I learned that coating Alpine cheeses with trimmings of the Alpine floral is common in the Hay Belt, but until recently these cheeses remained regional. Again, we can thank Adam Moskowitz for venturing out and bringing Alp Blossom to America. Another similar cheese he imports is Lola Montez, also coated with flowers and grass trimmings of the region. I have not had the pleasure to taste Lola Montez but hope to find it soon…
Alp Blossom Specs*:
- Raw Milk
- Brown Swiss and Brauvieh from 34 contributing herds
- Traditional Calf Stomach rennet
- Aged Six months
- Pressed and washed
- From Voralberg Austria
- Head Cheesemaker is Hans Kempf
To find a cheese shop that carries Alp Blossom, contact Columbia Cheese and they can send you in the right direction.
*From spec sheet provided to me by Glenn Hills of Columbia Cheese.