From milk to cheese
One assumes that back in the Stone Age the process of cheese making was discovered accidentally when hunters found white, gelatinous lumps in the stomachs of slain cattle, which had just before suckled at the mother’s teats. The milk had been turned to curd and whey by the rennet of the stomach. And so our forefathers made their first „cheese experiences“ and no doubt cheese has been appreciated as a delicacy for at least the past hundred thousand years. Our cheese dairy started processing milk to cheese in the 1920-ties. In these eight decades our silage free cheeses have evolved to prize choice delicacies.
The foundation for the production of our cheeses is our farmers from the Heumilch (silage free milk) regions Ziller Valley, Inn Valley and Weerberg. Only the finest, freshest green fodder and carefully harvested hay from the mountain pastures and valley meadows of these agriculturally shaped regions is good enough to feed the cattle with. Our number one basic commodity, HEUMILCH from silage free feeding.
We ourselves farm in one of these regions. Roughly numbered our 60 dairy cows are fed solely on feed from organic cultivation, certified by the Biokontrollstelle Tirol (Tyrolean Board of Control for Organic Agronomy). These dairy cows deliver approx. 350.000 kg finest silage free milk, which we use for our cheese production. In 1981 Hans Hirschhuber and his son Alois were one of the first farmers in the Tyrol to build a free stall for their dairy cattle enabling optimal, humane husbandry of our raw material suppliers. In those days a free standing barn was a sensation in the agricultural sector.
Approximately 180 farmers deliver about 10.000.000 kg silage free milk to our modern cheese dairy. This is where the art of cheese making happens. Years of experience have enabled our master cheese makers to produce perfect cheeses from silage free milk. The first important step when making cheese is coagulation. The process is accelerated by adding some rennet or starter milk cultures. Already at this point extreme care must be taken – is the temperature alright, is the quantity correct? Afterwards one will be able to taste whether a master of the art of cheese making was at work. Once the curdled milk has been broken down into small bits – in the case of Emmentaler not larger than a rice grain – by using a special cutting instrument the cut curd is heated to 50 °C. This way the curd is bound together. It is taken out of the vat and pressed into the typical loaf shape. After about 24 hours the desired firmness has been achieved and the next step is the salting. Once again great care must be taken regarding temperature and salting duration - flavour, preservation and rind depend on these factors.
Milk has now become cheese and is placed in storage. The curing store completed in 2005 is one of the most modern of its kind in Austria. Delicate microclimate allows for ideal conditions necessary to produce our Bergkäse (Alpine) – relatively high air humidity of approx. 95 % and a temperature of 12 – 14 °C. Twice a week high-tech machinery polishes the cheese wheels with a brine wash. After about four to six months Bergkäse (Alpine) is stored in a cool house ready to be sold and transported. Emmentaler needs temperatures of about 20 – 22 ° C for the first six to eight weeks and a relative humidity of approx. 75 %. These temperatures are needed for the propionic fermentation to take place – and this process is what causes the holes in the cheese. Following this fermentation process the Emmentaler is stored a further ten to fifteen weeks before being sold. The Granat dries for at least 16 weeks at 14-16°C and acquires a natural fat film when stored at approx. 75 % humidity. The cheese wheels are turned over weekly and wiped with a cloth. The Granat is then ripened for a further 4 months at approx. 12 ° C. Only after an intensive time of developing flavours and texture is the cheese ready. The Granat leaves our dairy in search of cheese connoisseurs.
Now the cheese is ready to be tasted…