Discover the centenary tradition of Graukase
If you ever wondered how cheese was invented, a look at Graukase will tell it all. This is a primeval cheese, one of the most basic expressions of the art of cheesemaking. No bacterial culture, no rennet, no nothing. Just the milk and the man.
Graukase (Gray Cheese) s an ancient heritage of all the Tyrolean Alps, a cheese of the people, with roots that go back centuries and a historical source of survival for the inhabitants of this corner of the Alps. This ancient tradition is still alive in the Aurina valley, saved by Slow Food just over a decade ago.
Milk was used for butter; grey cheese was produced with the „remaining“ skimmed milk without adding rennet. The farmers’ wives and dairymaids were mainly responsible for making cheese until the 19th century when it became a job for men.
This character cheese is mainly popular in eastern Tyrol: the inhabitants of the Oberinntal area, of the Ziller Valley and people from Vipiteno and surroundings all have their grey cheese. Grey cheese from Valle Aurina had nearly vanished into oblivion, when it was awarded the slow food “presidio price” in 2005, an award for nearly forgotten, high-quality regional products with traditional processing techniques.
No grey cheese is the same. Every farm and every mountain hut contributes its part to this cheese culture with its own recipe, which is characterised by intuition, experience and century-old family traditions.
Grey cheese is very lean—the fat content is no more than 2%.
The milk is left to rest for two days, during which time the acid coagulation begins. After heating, the curd is hung up to drain and then broken into pieces. The mass is then put into molds and pressed by hand. The cheeses age for two or three weeks, developing grayish-green fungal molds, a powerful and penetrating smell and a strong flavor with a bitterness that varies depending on how much whey is left during the draining.
The cheese is only made in mountain dairies from June to September. The Graukäse usually ages for around two weeks, but some cheeses are aged for up to 12 months at very low temperatures.
In recent years, the invasion of cheeses made in industrial dairies has relegated the production of Graukäse almost exclusively to a domestic level. It is still made in some mountain farmhouses, and a few cooperative dairies, which however use pasteurized milk and artificial starters. The Presidium has brought a tradition back to life, supporting a return to artisanal cheesemaking using only raw milk.
The classical way of enjoying this character cheese is with vinegar, oil and onion rings or as the heart of pressed dumplings, the vegetarian dish from Val Pusteria par excellence. Recent recipes of South Tyrolean chefs also include a combination of stewed fruit, vegetables or honey with this cheese whose taste ranges from mild and sour to strong and sharp and which is always good for a surprise.
If you want to discover this authentic mountain flavor, with a long and fascinating history, it cannot fail to visit the Ahrntal Valley and its magnificent wooded slopes. Maybe taking the opportunity to participate in the Kase Fesival, the dairy event of the year.
Don’t miss the opportunity.
Sand in Taufers/Campo Tures
39032 Bozen (BZ)
from 13 to 15 March 2020
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