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Speaking with a Cheese Maker

Rhona Lewis

Did you know that 70 percent of the country Switzerland is covered by the Alps and Jura mountain range? That may not mean much to you, but it does to cheese makers. The beautiful hills and valleys are unsuitable for farming, but the grass that covers them is perfect for breeding cattle and sheep. Just under half of the milk is made into cheese, which explains why cheese making has been a tradition in Switzerland for hundreds of years. Mishpacha Junior speaks to Mendy Schmerling, a maker of kosher cheeses.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

cheeseHi Mr. Schmerling. Can you tell us how Schmerling’s cheese started?

Before World War I my great-grandfather Levi Yitzschok Schmerling left Russia and started making cheese in Switzerland. The first step was to find a professional cheese maker. Cheese making in Switzerland is a cottage industry: that means that every town has its own cheese maker who is supplied with milk from the surrounding farms. There aren’t any huge factories that make cheese. My great-grandfather chose to work with Mr. Muller. Today Jorg Muller, his son, continues his father’s work. While his machinery is more sophisticated than that of his father, the cheese-making process remains exactly the same. That means that you are eating cheese that tastes the same as it tasted a hundred years ago!

 

Which types of cheese do you produce?

We produce mainly Emmental and Appenzeller cheeses. Both are named after the regions in which they are produced. Appenzeller has a spicy taste that comes from soaking it in a special mixture of herbs and salt. The recipe is a closely guarded secret. But, of course, the rabbi who gives the hechsher for Appenzeller cheese knows the secret! Emmental and Appenzeller are trademark names and there are very strict rules that state exactly how the cheeses must be made. One of the rules is that the cows must be allowed to graze freely in the summer. In the winter, when the pasture is covered in snow, they must be fed hay and not silage. Silage is like canned food — it is fodder made by storing oats and corn under plastic sheeting. Another rule states that the milk used must be fresh and not even a day old.

 

What does the mashgiach for cheese production do?

The mashgiach watches as the cows are milked, then cleans out the milk vats, seals them with his special stamp, and goes on a short ride with the milk truck to the cheese plant. He is present from the minute the milk is poured into the vats to get heated, until it is pressed into the cheese wheels. The mashgiach adds the kosher rennet and cultures. He also puts his stamp into the cheese circle. This stamp says, “Hi, I’m kosher!” and it stays on the cheese until the cheese is cut.

Sometimes my children visit the farms and get to ride around with the mashgiach. They love the rolling, green hills and crisp air.

 

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