Historical roots for our goat passion

My family goes back 500+ years in the mountains of Central Switzerland, in a small town between Interlaken and Gstaad. Great-Grandpa was a goat herder before he emigrated to the US, settling in Oak Park, IL. The lovely valley he left is still home to many Simmenthal cows and Oberhasli goats, and we like to think that our goats here share some of those goats’ genes.

Young goat herder up on the mountain

Even today, Swiss alpine goats are fed exclusively on grasses and flowers on the highlands throughout the summer milking season, and across the region you can find that their milk is still being made into cheese right up there in stone huts on the Alm.

A rustic "cheese kitchen" -- just for the summer season

This is about as far from "industrial production" as you can get!

Hand-stirring the curd to expel the whey

Fitting the curd into the hoop for pressing

Washing up in a stream-fed basin outside the hut

Cheese wheels are brought down into the valley, to be aged and watched over in cellars before being brought to market.

Cheese aging on wooden planks in a climate-controlled cellar

It’s great fun to visit the cheesemaking districts in the spring and fall of the year, when the animals are ceremoniously paraded through town either before being taken up the mountain for summer grazing or being brought back home for the late fall and winter.

Goats up front, cows coming along behind, down the valley and thru the town

All in all, keeping goats and making cheese is a wonderful lifestyle, and it’s quite cool when you can see it in its historical context. Goats rock! And thanks to fxcuisine.com for the beautiful pix to complement our own.

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