Two of the reasons that November is the best month for cheese are #Gruyere #Alpage
Rush Creek Reserve. And though they're made more than 4,000 miles apart, they are eternally linked in history and tradition.
Transhumance, as a broad term, refers to the process of leading dairy animals between fields to coincide with the shifting season. In the cheese community, it almost always refers to the most extreme version of this process, when cattle are led between the mountaintops and the valleys in Switzerland.
That any human would undertake such an arduous venture is a testament to how passionately the Swiss care about their cheese, and how fiercely they maintain their rich dairy traditions. Every summer, farmers lead their cattle to the high alpine pastures - at altitudes around 6,000 feet - so they can feed on the most verdant grasslands.
Cattle that spend their time walking around fields and eating only grass produce a lean and richly-nuanced milk. It's a milk perfect for making long-aged cheeses, and long-aged cheeses tend to be quite large. Hence, Switzerland's most famous cheeses are hefty: Gruyere, Emmenthaler and Sbrinz each weigh between 50-200 pounds.
Towards the end of summer, the cattle are returned to the valleys, where they spend the fall and winter in barns eating hay and grains. This new diet, combined with the natural bovine response to the cold and the end of their lactation cycle, results in milk that's 2% fattier than summer milk. No longer suitable for mature cheese, this milk is used for Vacherin Mont d'Or, a washed rind, spruce bark-wrapped, pudding of a cheese that's craved the world over.
So of course our government doesn't allow it. Because it's raw and aged under 60 days, we Americans could only experience it as contraband. Fortunately, there are a couple superb domestic versions, and #RushCreekReserve
is chief among them.
Cheese maker Andy Hatch experiences seasonal changes in milk just like in #Switzerland,
and he responds as nature intended. This seasonal offering somehow tastes of peanuts and smoked bacon, with the texture of fondue. Its season runs through early January, so don't wait!