It’s 6:00 am and local farmers from within a 4 km radius begin delivering raw milk on trailers to the Näff dairy in Appenzell.
“To be honest, we’re very old-fashioned. We want to preserve our cheeses exactly as they are for our grandchildren,” says Laure Rousseau, who works for the Gruyère AOP organisation.
t’s 3:00 am and Matthias Näff wakes up to prepare the morning’s whey cultures before the first tanks of milk begin arriving at 6:00 am. Eleven local farmers supply raw milk to the artisan cheesery run by Matthias and his father Ernst in the German-speaking canton of Appenzell in north-east Switzerland. “There are three of us who work here full-time, which is roughly average for a Swiss cheese dairy. There’s no such thing as a cheese factory in Switzerland,” says Näff, offering a sample of Appenzeller, a hard, pungent cheese with a distinctly nutty flavour. Prepared to a recipe unchanged for seven centuries, Appenzeller’s spicy tanginess is accented by the 21-herb brine wash that is rubbed on the rind as the cheese matures. “We have no idea what’s in the brine. It’s delivered by a local producer. Only two people in the world know the secret recipe,” reveals Näff. LABOUR OF LOVE After the raw milk is pumped into copper vats, Näff adds the starter cultures and rennet – a natural ingredient extracted from calf stomach – and the curdling begins. As the milk is heated, it gradually forms a grainy, dense mass. “All the cheeses made in this region are basically artisan cheeses. Everything that’s super-trendy these days – local artisanal food, traceability, and sustainability – has been part of our heritage for centuries,” says Näff, who made his first ‘freestyle’ cheese at the age of 12.
34 BLUE WINGS OCTOBER 2016