This is a nice gouda-type cheese in the same family as one of our regular purchases, Sankaenter. In fact, Hirtenkase could be Sankaenter’s older, more serious brother. The cheese is a hard worker — it’s hard in texture, in fact and a bit dry. It’s dotted with protein crystals, which lend the texture some crunch. A bit of oil pleasantly coats the mouth, before a caramel undertone, and even a hint of flowers, catches up to the sharp, salty crunch.
So why do I find this cheese serious? A solid cheese, it gets the job done, without fooling around, without frivolity. The flavor is relatively strong and especially consistent. It doesn’t veer off into surprising places. Hirtenkase is more Journeyman than Drama Queen.
Hirtenkase literally means “herdsman’s cheese”. After bringing their cows into the Alps each spring to graze, Southern German cow herders traditionally bring them back down each fall — In the case of Hirtenkase, they come back to the Allgau area, near the Austrian border. Wonderfully, the cows’ mid-September descent down the mountains is marked with a festival for which the cows are adorned with flowers, and people along their route gather and cheer.
Aged eight months, Hirtenkase’s hard texture and good flavor make it a nice grating, as well as snacking, cheese. Its slight salty taste could take a fruity wine to compliment it. The strong taste and caramel-ly aspect work well with ale and good pretzels.
Come mid-September, I’ll be eager to celebrate.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman