Speciality Portrait: Allgaeuer Bergkaese
AT A GLANCE: a mature performance!
This is a genuine original Allgaeu cheese: produced in the region, evolved through centuries of tradition, once at home only on the Sennalpen dairy farms but long since common in the valleys too. Allgaeuer Bergkaese is simply too good to remain the sole preserve of the people on the mountaintops.
By 1840, there were already several significant cheese dairies throughout the Upper Allgaeu region specialising in the manufacture of Bergkaese. Since January 1997, 'Allgaeuer Bergkaese' has been a protected designation of origin that is valid throughout the EU. This means that it may only be produced in its home region: the Allgaeu Alps, or to be precise, in the rural district of Lindau am Bodensee, in the Upper Allgaeu, Eastern Allgaeu, Lower Allgaeu and at Lake Constance, as well as in the towns and cities of Kaufbeuren, Kempten, Ravensburg and Memmingen. The entire milk used to produce the cheese must also originate from these areas.
Wheels of Bergkaese are smaller and flatter than those of Allgaeuer Emmentaler. Which is why Allgaeuer Bergkaese is sometimes referred to as the Emmentaler's little brother. But viewed historically, it is by some measure the older 'brother'. And its nutty flavour is even more intense and aromatic.
It can be enjoyed equally well at home or in the 'Alphuette' (as Alpine huts are called in the Allgaeu region) as a daytime snack. Allgaeuer Bergkaese is also a welcome component of an elegant cheese platter or buffet. Professional and amateur cooks alike love its flavour and use it for refining all manner of warm dishes.
PROFILE Allgäuer Bergkäse (Allgaeuer Bergkaese )
Hard raw milk cheese
|Designation||Protected designation of origin (PDO)|
|Fat content||45% fat in dry matter|
|Form||Round wheel, smaller and flatter than Emmentaler; |
Diameter 40 to 90 cm; weight 15 to 50 kg
|Appearance||Matt yellow with few small holes; dark yellow to brownish rind|
|Maturity||Reached after at least four months|
|Flavour||Mild and aromatic, nutty; flavour becomes more intense and piquant with increasing maturity|
|Valuable ingredients||Allgaeuer Bergkaese contains around 30% high-quality protein. It also contains vital minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iodine and the vitamins A, B2 and B12. A hundred grams of Allgaeuer Bergkaese covers an adult's daily required intake of calcium, which is important for healthy bones.|
|Tolerability||Contains virtually no lactose|
|Storage||Cool but not cold (under no circumstances below 0°C): preferably on the middle shelf of a refrigerator. The ideal packaging for Allgaeuer Bergkaese is the original packing material or paper from the cheese counter. Alternatively, it can be kept beneath a cheese cover or wrapped in film (which should be pierced with a fork to permit aeration)|
|Serving conditions||t room temperature. Allgaeuer Bergkaese should be removed from the refrigerator half on hour before serving (but not before, otherwise moisture will form on the surface).|
MANUFACTURE: Alpine cheese making
When the winter is coming to an end, the mature mountain cheese is brought down into the Allgaeu valleys. Originally, Sennalpen cheese makers used to take their products downslope on special cheese sleds, but nowadays the transport is performed using snowcats. Whether on the Allgaeu Sennalpen farms or in the valleys, the cheese is still made according to a traditional recipe, adhering to all the rules of the art of (mountain) cheese making. And of course always made of 100 % Allgaeu raw milk – with no added flavourings, colouring agents or preservatives.
Ten to eleven litres of milk are needed to produce a kilogram of Allgaeuer Bergkaese. First, the raw milk is heated in a large boiler and rennet added. This thickens the milk until it has a yoghurt-like consistency. The cheese maker than draws a cheese harp, an instrument that consists of a large number of fine metal strings, through the thickened milk. This turns the mass into curds the size of wheat grains. The curds are carefully heated again and mixed. The cheese maker then puts this mass into the round cheese moulds.
The mass is left in the moulds overnight where it is subjected to a pressure of five to eight kilograms per kilo. The wheels are inverted occasionally while they are still soft. They then spend the following one to three days in a salt bath. This is when the cheese rind is formed.
After this stage, the cheese enjoys some Allgaeu peace and quiet. The cheese maker inverts the cheese wheels a few times a week and washes them down with salt water. They are then left to continue maturing – all in all for between four and twelve months.
Raw milk cheese is highly suitable for long-term storage. Its aromas evolve very gradually during the cellar storage period. And you can taste it. Even young Allgaeuer Bergkaese has a nutty and highly aromatic flavour. Every month it is left to mature enhances the intensity and character of its flavour, when subjected to optimum handling.
RAW MILK CHEESE LORE
Most cheeses that we buy in the supermarket are made from heat-treated milk. This brief heating process kills germs and increases the milk's shelf life.
Raw milk cheeses such as Allgaeuer Bergkaese are exquisite delicacies, cared for and refined by expert and experienced hands. Raw milk is milk has not been heated to any temperature above 40 °C prior to cheese making. This preserves a wide variety of natural flavouring agents, aromas and microorganisms in the milk that have a favourable effect on the cheese's fragrance.
The milk used to make high-quality Allgaeuer Bergkaese often originates from grazing cows or cows that are fed daily with fresh grass and hay. This preserves the taste of the milk, which varies according to region and season, and gives the cheese specialities their distinctive flavours.
HOT AND COLD: Culinary tips from the Bergkaese kitchen
Allgaeuer Bergkaese’s chief companions (apart from bread) naturally include potatoes. A refined aromatic touch can be added to polenta and risotto with the addition of grated Allgaeuer Bergkaese. Leaf salads gain a savoury flavour with the addition of broken slices of mountain cheese.
A tender but crispy greeting from the south of Bavaria comes in the form of Allgaeuer Bergkaese pancakes with spring bloom salad, while Allgaeuer Bergkaese noodles with syrup nuts promise an aromatic delight with a tempting sweetness. The cheese speciality also harmonises well with meat dishes – from veal cutlets to lamb chops. Allgaeu neck of pork steak with mountain cheese and herb filling is a hearty and spicy joy.
Our tip: Allgaeuer Bergkaese with Fruits. Whether prepared cold, on a cheese platter for example, or hot, the spicy aromatic flavour of the Allgaeuer Bergkaese melds with the sweet taste and aroma of the mature fruits, resulting in an exquisite culinary joy. You can also grate Allgaeuer Bergkaese with some thyme and rosemary and add it to lamb's lettuce and caramelised apple.
DRINK TIPS from the sommelier
The following drinks go very well with the intense flavour of Allgaeuer Bergkaese:
- Full-bodied, highly quaffable Bavarian beers, such as dark beer, Bockbier or Doppelbock.
- Strong red wines such as Pinot Noir or Dornfelder (also matured in a barrique)
- High-alcohol white wines, such as late vintage Silvaner, Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc