The hills are alive with the smells of cheese, with cheese they have made for a thousand years…
Okay, maybe not a thousand years, and maybe the Sound of Music reference was a bit off geographically. Because while we are taking you into the hills for this Wasik’s Cheese of the Month, we’re headed to the SouthWestern Swiss Alps. Cue the music from Heidi!
Sorry for the “cheesy” musical references. Consider yourself lucky I didn’t wear braids and a milkmaid dress for my “cheese” photo. (Although, it was very tempting!)
What is tempting is this month’s Wasik’s Cheese Shop recommendation; a wonderful hunk of L’Etivaz Fromage D’Alpage. Read about it here on The Haute Life, and then go get yourself your own beautiful slice of this unbridled cheese!
CHEESE – Hard Cheese
DAIRY – Raw Cow’s Milk
ORIGIN – Switzerland
COST – $40.00 per pound
Being a cheese freak, I always wear an ear-to-ear smile anytime I walk into Wasik’s Cheese Shop. This day was no different. Although, there was an extra bustle in the air; The holiday rush had already begun. People lined the walls waiting for a chance to put in their order and chat with staff. In any other retail store, you might see staff visibly stressed. Not at Wasik’s! The staff laughed with patrons and vice versa. There really is an “our house is your house feel” in this great little shop.
As I stood in the store, eavesdropping on jovial conversations and admiring all of the non-cheese goodies on the shelves, my excitement started to build. What type of cheese did Brad have this month? Would it be better than the Vermont Clothbound Cheddar? I was like a kid jumping up to see over the line at the ice cream truck – what was the flavor of the day?
Brad brought out the lovely yellow L’Etivaz Fromage D’Alpage.
Look at that gorgeous label imprinted into the cheese. It tells the story of the care and tradition under which this delicious cheese is crafted.
This raw cow’s milk hard cheese is made in the “Alpage” or high mountain pastures of the Hamlet of the Swiss Alps. It’s that cow’s milk in part that makes this cheese so special.
As the snowline recedes in the spring, the cattle are taken up the hillside by Shepard. Those bovines then go all free-range on that mountainside, feasting on spring greenery. Fresh herbs and new spring grass create a flavorful milk that is “unbridled” just like the cows that make it. Brad tells us it’s not uncommon occasionally to find a flint of ash, or some other little treat from Mother Nature in the cheese.
A small handful of families (30 give or take) help to make this cheese the old fashioned way! From copper pots over a wood fire, the cheese is formed. Over a series of weeks, the wheels are given brine baths, occasionally being flipped to ensure a nice crust. Once those edges are formed, the cheese sits in a ripening cellar for up to 24 months! Some are selected for an even longer beauty rest of another 30 months!
Lastly, the wheels get dressed in their casein mark. Usually, a Gruyère-type cheese comes in 80-pound wheels. But, because these special little babies of L’Etivaz Fromage D’Alpage are made high in the Swiss Alps, they only weigh 40 pounds. Hey, have you tried transporting tons of cheese down a mountainside? I don’t think these farmers signed up for a Spartan race. Besides, good things come in smaller packages. 😉
I sampled this cheese with the Post Road Liquors Wine Wednesday pick. I’ll have more on that later – but let’s say salty & sweet goodness all around!
As for the L’Etivaz Fromage D’Alpage
, as expected, I wasn’t disappointed. It has a nice nutty smoothness to it, with a few kicks of salty goodness every now and then. I imagine it would go well with so many things. But, I chose just to sip and bite, sip and bite. The cheese won me over on the flavor alone. I keep going back to chip off another piece. But, the story behind it is just as interesting as the smooth and funky flavor profile of this world-renowned cheese.
Don’t forget to check in next month for more cheese news!
Don’t forget to visit Wasik’s in Wellesley. For a fun and unique holiday gift, consider sending a cheese basket!
ADDRESS: 61 CENTRAL ST, WELLESLEY, MA 02482
“When my get-up-and-go has got up and went,
I hanker for a hunk o’ cheese!
When I’m dancin’ a hoedown and my boots kinda slow down,
Or anytime I’m weak in the knees,
I hanker for a hunk of,
A slab or slice or chunk of,
A snack a day’s a winner
And yet won’t spoil my dinner!
I hanker for a hunk o’ cheese!”