Swiss Cheese Farming

How Swiss Cheese Is Produced: 6 Simple Steps

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How Swiss Cheese Is Produced: 6 Simple Steps

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I am going to walk you through my Swiss cheese farming adventure and explain how Swiss cheese is produced in 5 simple steps. It was one of the most exciting and unique experiences in my life. Mainly because of the place and the people that taught me so many exciting things. You don’t usually do such activities in your daily routine. However, it is their routine, and I cannot wait to introduce it to you.

At the end of this article, I am giving you some recommendations for cheese tours you can do in Switzerland. This way, you will get to experience the Swiss cheese making as well.

 

 

Swiss Cheese Production in 6 Simple Steps:

Below, I am giving you a quick overview of how Swiss cheese is produced and which steps to take. After, keep reading for more detailed instructions.

  1. Heat milk and add natural yeast into it. Once curds are formed, slightly stir and beat them into smaller pieces.
  2. After 5 minutes, stir the milk and beat small pieces of curds into even smaller ones.
  3. Drain whey off the curd with a cheesecloth
  4. Form the cheese inside molds
  5. Check the cheese every 3 hours and turn it upside down in the mold
  6. Let the cheese in a salt bath overnight and leave it in a cheese cellar for at least 2 weeks

 

 

My two-week alpine farming life started on Tuesday evening when my host mum drove me from Brienz (a little village in the Jungfrau region) to the mountains, where their Swiss farmhouse is located. This place is a wonder. Situated at 1700 metres above sea level, with only four family huts, Swiss cows, pathways, and green meadows with flowers – nothing else.

After my host mum showed me my room, I went out to explore the surroundings a little bit and soak up the quiet atmosphere of the mountains around. Later, we had our first Swiss dinner.

This is the view I had every single evening I was going to bed:

switzerland scenery at night
Stunning views from the farmhouse room on Brienz Lake and Brienz village

My Swiss farm stay consisted mainly of making traditional Alpine cheese in the mornings. In the afternoons, I worked outside on their meadows, getting rid of plants, which were harming their soil.

 

 

Daily routine on my Swiss farming adventure

I woke up every day at 6:30 am when a rooster started crowing. You don’t even have to use your alarm clock anymore. Sometimes, I got up earlier because I just couldn’t have enough of that pleasant atmosphere and went for a walk before breakfast.

switzerland cheese farm in the mountains
Hiking trails around the farmhouse with the view on Brienzer Rothorn mountain

The breakfast was served around 7:00 am. I normally prepared jams, homemade butter, bread, and fresh Swiss milk or hot chocolate with coffee. Some days, we also made so-called Bircher muesli, Swiss oatmeal with fruits, jam, and homemade yogurt. This oatmeal has been named after the Swiss doctor Bircher, who believed in the magic that oatmeal provides our bodies. Since then, people have been eating it all around Switzerland.

Before breakfast, my host mum poured 100 litres of milk into a large stainless-steel pot and put it on low heat to settle. Once we cleaned the table after breakfast, we got round to our cheese-making process.

A Swiss cow eats approximately 10kg of fresh grass and drinks over 4 liters of water a day. It produces roughly 25 liters of milk per day. We were making new cheese every second day out of 100 litres of milk.

 

What Are The Production Steps Of Cheese?

1.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

First of all, we added natural yeast into the milk and let it heat. After about 40 minutes, when a curd was formed on the milk, my host mum took a giant spatula in the form of a knife and slightly cut the curd into bigger pieces. Then it was my turn. With a huge stainless steel-spoon, I gently beat the curd into smaller pieces in a straight movement towards me. You can already see that curd being broken and your cheese being on the way.

how swiss cheese is produced
The large stainless-steel pot for the cheese production

 

2.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

After about 5 minutes, I started slightly stirring the milk, using the wooden instrument you can see below in the photo. You cannot just mix it as you want. You need to stir it in circles (right to left or vice-versa) while also turning the instrument in your hands until you beat the curd into small cubes. After about 10 minutes, I stopped the process and let it sit for a while.

how swiss cheese is produced in a pot
Stirring cheese curd into small pieces with a special wooden instrument: The Way How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

My host mum then sent me down to their little cheese cellar to clean the other cheeses we made in the past days or weeks.

how swiss cheese is produced in a cheese cellar
The Swiss cheese cellar for cheese aging proces

Cheese typically stays in the cheese cellar for at least two weeks. This is the minimum time, though. When you taste it after only two weeks, it doesn’t have that strong cheesy taste yet. The best is to let it sit there between 3 to 4 weeks.

Every morning, I had to go to the cellar and clean both sides of each cheese with a cloth and hot water. Imagine, when there are more than 400 cheese pieces, you could go crazy. But with such a view, farming in the Alps and the whole process never gets boring.

switzerland scenery
Views from the cheese cellar on the Brienz valley

I was always curious to see every single step of the cheese-making process. My host mum called me after another 45 minutes to come up to the farmhouse and watch her forming the cheese:

 

3.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

The next step was to take a cheesecloth, which my host mum always did as it was the most critical and difficult step. In the cheesecloth, she drained whey off the curd. Once drained, she put the whey into a mold with drainage holes that allowed the whey to get rid of the liquid.

swiss cheese production in a swiss hut
The kitchen where cheese was prepared with cheesecloth and other necessities

 

4.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

Once my host mum gave me the mold with whey, I had to put a heavy steel circle into it and press it to push more liquid out of the whey. Inside the mold, the whey started to create a cheese shape, and so after the first press, I took it out, turned it upside-down, and put it back into the mold. I placed a plastic circle with holes and the steel circle above and let it sit for a while. My host mum had the next mold with whey ready and passed it to me, so I repeated this process with the rest of the whey. We normally made 18 to 20 pieces of cheese each morning, starting with 100 litres of milk.

how swiss cheese is produced in molds
Shaping cheese in the cheese molds: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

The finishing touch was a little red paper that we placed on top of the cheese, which was going to be sold.

homemade swiss cheese
Formed cheese with a red paper for selling

The rest of the liquid was given to pigs living on the farm.

You can produce approximately 20 cheeses from 100 litres of milk.

After, we left the cheese to settle and get rid of more liquid as the steel circle was still pushing it slightly down. So I went back to the cheese cellar and continued cleaning the other cheese pieces.

Cleaning the cheese every day is very important because it prevents it from molds and gives it more moisture to boost the aging process.

 

5.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

After about 40 minutes, I went up again to take care of the freshly made cheese. I had to take all the cheese pieces out of the mold, turn it upside-down, and cover it again with the plastic and steel circles. The same process had to be repeated every 40 minutes, 3 times during the morning.

 

6.STEP: How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

Towards the evening, once the cheese was perfectly formed and the liquid was gone, I took the fresh cheese pieces down to the cheese cellar and prepared a salt bath for them. Salt not only adds flavour to the cheese but also prepares it for the aging process.

swiss cheese in a salt bath swiss farm
Cheese staying overnight in the salt bath

Salt is an excellent conservant. It prepares the cheese for the aging process and also adds flavour to it.

The cheese stayed overnight in the salt bath. The next day, I put it on the wooden racks in the cheese cellar.

 

How Long Does It Take To Make Swiss Cheese?

As I mentioned above, it typically takes one whole day to produce Swiss Cheese. From 100 litres of milk, you can make around 20 pieces of smaller Swiss cheese. After, you have to let it sit in a cheese cellar for 2 to 4 weeks. The more you let it sit in the cellar, the stronger the cheese flavour will be. However, you have to let is there at least for 2 or 3 weeks for the cheese to obtain a good flavour.

 

Selling Homemade Cheese At The Steam Rack Railway

Once I cleaned all the cheese pieces, I went back to our hut to prepare lunch. We ate potatoes with cheese, some vegetables, or traditional ‘Spaetzli,’ which are little cheese dumplings.

After lunch, we usually allowed ourselves little rest for about an hour. My host mum went down to a funicular station, where she used to sell the cheese to tourists going up to the Brienzer Rothorn mountain.

brienzer rotthord middle station switzerland
The Brienzer Rothorn funicular (middle station)

It is the only steam rack railway in Switzerland and a fantastic experience. If you are in the Jungfrau region, you should definitely check the Brienzer Rothorn funicular. What is more, in the afternoon, you can buy cheese from the local farm, where I was staying.

brienzer rotthorn funicular switzerland
The Brienzer Rothorn steam rack railway (middle station)

 

Swiss farming afternoons

Chilling on a Swiss farm
Chilling on a Swiss farm
How Swiss Cheese Is Produced blueberries
Picking up blueberries
how swiss cheese is produced Ripping out the weeds
Ripping out the weeds

I usually spent the afternoons on nearby meadows, ripping out the weeds and old harmful plants so that cows have their grass freshly prepared for eating. Yes, this also belongs to Swiss farming duties. Meanwhile, I was eating all those blueberries right from Swiss bushes, so sometimes I got pretty slow with ripping.

I even took a cup to collect some for our Bircher muesli.

Some days, my host mum sent me further up to rip out small trees. This was so painful for me and sometimes dangerous because it was pretty challenging to rip the trees out. Not only mentally but also physically. Sometimes I was about to fall off the meadow down to the Brienz Lake. Its purpose was to prevent the trees from growing on the meadows so that cows constantly have many places to eat grass. It was not the most adventurous part of Swiss farming, but luckily, I didn’t have to do it many times. Otherwise, I would increase the chance to fall to Brienz Lake…

 

 

Weekends On a Swiss Cheese Farm

Weekends were usually off. I just went outside and chilled on the meadows, listening to the music and staring at the beauty around me.

Switzerland Travel Guide: Me exploring Switzerland
Me exploring Switzerland and experiencing Swiss cheese farm

 

An Unforgettable Experience

So this was my daily routine on a Swiss farm. But what came on the last day was just an unforgettable experience. The family had another small stall further up in the mountains, around 2000 metres above sea level, where the cows stay throughout the summer. My host dad went there every morning to milk the cows and brought the milk down to our hut, where we started the cheese-making process after breakfast.

In the middle of August, my Swiss farm holidays were coming to an end. But the highlight was just on its way. We all went up to the stall and brought the cows down to our hut. Just imagine those Swiss cows coming down mountains through the green meadow and you running behind them. It was so much fun; you would love it for sure. The cows stay around the hut during the whole autumn. The family then guides them further down to their house next to the lake, where they remain for the winter. They take them up again in spring and for summer further up to the stall.

swiss cheese farm swiss hut in the mountains
The Swiss family farm huts with cows – 1700 metres above the sea level

 

 

Where To Find Such Swiss Farming Experience + Learn How Swiss Cheese Is Produced?

I found this Swiss farm job on the Agriviva website, where you can find many Swiss family farms for different purposes. Some are vegetable farms, some cheese farms, some need your help taking care of children. You can decide what you want to do. It is an incredible opportunity to find your farm holidays in Switzerland. You also get some pocket money for each day, around 20 Swiss francs, which is actually pretty great. It helped me to pay for the accommodation on my 8-day Swiss itinerary. Check it out; it is definitely a valuable experience. 

However, you have to know that the Agriviva organization accepts more people who speak German, Italian, or French. It is not so much for English speakers. However, it is a perfect chance for you to practice these languages on a farm if you speak a few words in those languages. If you need some inspiration for learning a language easily (for travel), read my article about the ways to learn a language independently.

 

Learn a Language for Travel

 

If you were interested in other farm jobs in Switzerland, you could also check Workaway. They accept English speakers. It is also a volunteer style, but the experience of doing something new is always worth it, right?

how swiss cheese is produced homemade
Selfmade cheese ready for you to eat during my Swiss cheese farming experience: The Way How Swiss Cheese Is Produced

 

If you are a cheese lover, then this would be for sure an exciting experience for you. Plus, one of the activities in Switzerland you should add to your Swiss travel list. Not only Swiss dairy products but all Swiss farm products are generally delicious and unique. So don’t miss the chance to try them out even if you don’t have time or don’t feel like working on a farm. At least, look for some local markets and try the food.

 

 

TOP CHEESE EXCURSIONS IN SWITZERLAND

As I promised you, I have some great cheese excursions you can do in Switzerland. My top choice is to do a cheese excursion in Gruyeres, but you can also do the other ones in Zürich and taste Fondue – a Swiss national dish. Below are the top 3 cheese excursions you can do in Switzerland:

 

 

 

If you want to travel in Switzerland, use my 8-day Switzerland itinerary. For more articles about Switzerland, how to cut your costs travelling in Switzerland, top mountain excursions, and a lot more, check out my Switzerland section.