Making Cheese at 8000 Feet

Some of the greatest cheeses in the world are made only in the summertime in the gorgeous high elevations of the French and Swiss Alps. Gruyère, Beaufort, Appenzeller, Comté all come to mind. In a process known as transhumance, cows are allowed to graze on mountainous pasture at higher and higher elevations as the snows melt in the warm weather. The cheese itself is made right there on the slopes in little stone huts. The lush array of herbs, grasses and wildflowers in the alpine meadows make for some of the greatest tasting cheeses in the world. This process has been beautifully chronicled on, with a stunning high-resolution photo essay of the wonder that is alpine cheesemaking.

Move Over Fondue...

Raclette is a semi-firm, cow's milk cheese, made in the alps of Switzerland and France and aged from 3 to 6 months. It is also a means of serving the cheese, not unlike fondue, in which the wheel is heated by a fire or heat-lamp, and the melted surface of the wheel is scraped onto a plate. In fact, the French verb racler means "to scrape." Along with the melted puddle of cheese, one traditionally serves cornichons, pickled pearl onions, and one or more small boiled potatoes.

Last week Emmi USA, the largest importer of Swiss dairy products in the country, invited me to a "Raclette Party" held at Swizz Manhattan, a Swiss-American restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. (Swizz actually offeres a Raclette dish on their regular menu; appetizer portion $10, All You Can Eat for $26.) Though I'd previously tried the cheese on its own, this was


Close your eyes and picture heaven; are there soft, billowing clouds, soaring golden gates, and friendly angels flapping their feathery wings through the honeyed air? Not for me there aren't. For me there is nothing but a vast expanse of mozzarella di bufala, small white puffs of fior di latte extending in all directions even past the horizon. Instead of angels, I see water buffalo; in place of golden gates I see giant wooden barrel vats with fresh curds floating in green whey.

So too, apparently, do the Curd Nerds over in Switzerland. Today's New York Times has a fascinating article on a Swiss farmer who has begun making mozzarella from the milk of the water buffalo, in part a response to the burgeoning love for the cheese among the Swiss. Of course, Switzerland is perhaps

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