In 1997, the Swiss parliament passed a law according to which agricultural products other than wine could be awarded the AOC certificate. AOC stood for Appellation d’Origine Controllée (Controlled Designation of Origin). This seal is official confirmation of the place of manufacture and production. In 2013, this was changed to AOP – Appellation d’Origine Protégée.
In order to bear the AOP certificate, a product must:
The many different herbs and grasses of the alpine meadows and the crystal-clear mountain water give healthy and nourishing alpine milk. From this, on some 470 Bernese Alps, come the unique Berner Alpkäse AOP and, after extensive storage for at least 18 months, the extra-hard Berner Hobelkäse AOP. Whether diced, crumbled or shaved, these two Bernese Oberland specialities should not be missing from any cheese platter.
Raclette is always a good idea – why not try a tangy Alpkäse-Raclette AOP that tastes of alp herbs and grasses?
The manufacture of cheese in Ticino, as evidenced by the best Ticino Alpkäse DOP, is an old tradition dating back to the 12th century, and one that is handed down from generation to generation.
Every year, more than 2,800 cows grazing at an altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 metres in around 130 mountain meadows in the Vaud supply milk for L’Etivaz AOP. L’Etivaz cheese was the first Swiss product to receive the AOP seal of quality in 2000.
Gruyère d’alpage is produced on 53 alps, distributed across the cantons of Fribourg, Neuchâtel, Vaud, Bern and Jura.
The mostly black and white cows that graze in the Gruyère alps supply the raw materials for the Vacherin Fribourgeois d’alpage AOP, one of the most popular cheeses for fondue.
As early as 1530, merchants were exporting the firm, golden-yellow wheels of Sbrinz on mules from Brienz via Meiringen, the Grimsel Pass and the Gries Pass to Italy, in exchange for salt and wine. Alpsbrinz AOP is made from pure raw milk and contains 45% fat in its dry state. Following an extensive salt bath, it is brought to a heated room, where it ‘sweats out’ a considerable amount of fat and water at 18 degrees over a number of days. The wheel is then stored vertically in the ripening cellar and carefully rubbed dry at regular intervals. The ageing period of at least 30 months thus makes the Alpsbrinz AOP deliciously mellow and extremely easy to digest.
Healthy animals, clean air, changeable weather and low-impact, sustainable farming methods mean that more than a hundred different herbs and grasses thrive in the alp meadows. This rich vegetation contains lots of healthy nutrients, which the grazing cows absorb with their feed and then pass on in their milk. The result is the delicate Glarner Alpkäse.
There are lots of other Swiss alp cheeses that do not bear the AOP certificate. Like the AOP cheeses, they are subject to the Mountain and Alp Ordinance (Berg- und Alp-Verordnung, BAIV), according to which the designation Alpkäse may only be used if the milk has been obtained and processed during the alp season in the alp region. The raw milk must come from cows that are free to graze in alp meadows. All of these cheeses are semi-hard alp cheeses. They are available in shops just two to three months later.
The production of Bündner Alpkäse (Graubünden alp cheese) has a very long tradition. Historians have proven that Rhätischer (Alp)cheese was produced and sold already in Roman times. Until the 20th century the alp cheese was mostly used for self-supply.
Today Bündner Alpkäse is produced on about 120 alp pastures in the Canton of Graubünden. Approximately. 600 tons, or 100,000 wheels, are produced each summer.
The origin of Bündner Alpkäse is identified by a brand name. The brand consists of the characters ‘‘Bündner Alpkäse“ and the respective identification number. The dairies are inspected on a regular basis.
Bündner Alpkäse has evolved from the erstwhile low-fat cheese to today’s full-fat hard cheese. The loaf weight amounts to 5-6 kg. The rind is smeared. Bündner Alpkäse exhibits random holes ranging in size between rice grains and corn grains, with smooth dough (water content 38 to 41 %). For the processing only untreated raw milk, neither thermised nor pasteurised, is used. Two months after production Bündner Alpkäse is ripe enough to eat. In the case of alp cheese the full aroma comes into its own 3 to 12 months after production.
The lush alp meadows in Entlebuch add a fruity, grassy note to the semi-hard alp cheese. The number of alp farms making alp cheese in this region can be counted on one hand, making it a rare delicacy.
Muotathaler Alpkäse can be described as a sibling of the renowned Schwyzerkäse. It is a full-fat, semi-hard cheese with a smooth rind.
In keeping with the size of the canton, this region has a smaller number of mountain farms where alp milk is processed. Every November, cheese makers in each one of these farms offer the fruits of their labours from the previous summer for tasting and purchase in the cosy atmosphere of the old Schützenhaus Beckenried.
The production area of St. Gallen alp cheese covers the three St. Gallen alpine regions: primarily the Sarganserland, but also Werdenberg in the Rhine valley and Toggenburg. St. Gallen alp cheese is a full-fat semi-hard cheese made from raw milk that comes on the market after only two to three months. The raw milk on each alp has its own typical flavour depending on which alpine herbs the cows eat. For St. Gallen alp cheese, a mixture of evening milk stored and chilled overnight and fresh morning milk is processed. The evening milk is skimmed so that the desired full fat content is reached. A loaf weighs between 4 and 7 kilos and has a diameter of 20 to 32 cm. Due to its higher water content St Gallen alp cheese is softer and smoother than other semi-hard cheeses – and thus matures earlier. As with all cheeses, the taste of semi-hard alp cheese changes depending on how mature it is. St. Gallen alp cheese is commercially available in both mild and spicy form.
Urner Alpkäse is generally a full-fat, semi-hard cheese, which, depending on how mature it is, can have a very mild or a very tangy flavour. Urner Alpkäse is made from a mixture of fresh morning milk and evening milk that has been stored and cooled overnight. A wheel weighs between six and eight kilograms. The alp farmers often season the alp cheese with various flavourings such as garlic, chives, caraway, basil or pepper.