Transhumance, the move of animals and people up to higher altitudes during the summer, has many facets, different rules, terms or requirements. They differ not only by countries – Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. – in Switzerland the rules and traditions change from Canton to Canton: There are 26 Swiss Cantons, and in 14 of them transhumance takes place.
So this page is about details, differences, transhumance and its products in general as well as in the – sometimes minute – variations. Some things are rather “technical”, some strange for the modern world, some might put a smile on your face, others make you emotional.
As the title says: It’s a page to LEARN more about it, and Adopt-an-Alp as well, of course. And it’s a closer look into a wonderful and certainly healthier world.
Transhumance 2017 is around the corner, and before it starts the Herger Family had reason to celebrate. The last calf was born in their winterhome before the move to Ruosalp. Watch the amazing short video and have a look at the pictures.
Watch the short video which explains the daily routine on an Alp to produce an Alpage cheese. As you will see it is following traditions that go back centuries as well as (paper-)work that accounts for the food requirements of our modern world.
The video is supplied by the SAV (Swiss Society of Alp Economy) and cannot be shown or reproduced without the written consent of Quality Cheese.
One of the highlights the winners of the 2015 Adopt-an-Alp contest experienced on their trip to Switzerland was definitely the visit of Alp Heuboden operated by the family of Fritz and Anna Tschudi-Gwerder. As one contestant said: “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
Amongst the Alp cheeses L’Etivaz is certainly a special story. Created in the craggy mountains of the Alps of Canton Vaud and the Pays d’Enhaut it is one of the most searched for Alpage, not only in Switzerland, but worldwide: Alone the demand from the French would cover the yearly production of about 450 tons (almost 1 mio. lbs). No wonder Alpage L’Etivaz is one of the most expensive cheeses.
The people of this region are – well – stubborn, really stubborn. Even going back to the origins in the 15th, 16th century those dairy farmers resisted the mighty rulers from Berne. When sales dropped dramatically during the depression the farmers took action and founded a producer’s cooperative in 1932. Two years later the L’Etivaz cellars were built with a capacity to hold 2700 wheels. Twelve years later they were extended to store another 3000, and the next extension became necessary in 1974.
In 1986 a total of 14,000 wheels could be stored in one place, with better conditions for cheese and workers. However the demand further increased, and in 2012 the cellars from 1934 were replaced with a new facility holding over 16,000 rounds.
Although very similar to the Alpage Gruyère the coop always resisted to be included in that organisation. In 1992 new procedures and requirements in regard of milk production, cheesemaking, and aging were put into place to ensure consistent quality. That was also the base for the AOP application which was achieved on Sept. 24, 1999. L’Etivaz was the first food product in Switzerland to receive this recognition.
Those regulations are extremely strict, here just a few:
For more info go to: Etivaz-AOC
Cows eat grass in tufts, and they eat a lot! And this asks for a lot of ruminating. The indigestive material goes first to a temporary “storage”, the rumen where it is cut to bits and pieces. The cow then swallows that mush again and digests it in a truly refined stomach-intestine system. Per liter milk (1 quart) the cows heart needs to pump 500 liters (132 gl.) of blood through the glandular tissue into the udder. During that complex chemical procedure the milk turns white, without any artificial color, of course.
The milk consists of about 88% water, in average 3.3% protein, 3.5% fat and 4.8% milk sugar (lactose). It is also laden with minerals: With a 120 milligrams of Calcium per 100ml milk it is one of the calcium richest products. You get also Vitamins A, D, B1, B2, Bc, C and E.