"Our 6:30am call time had better be worth it," I thought as we left our comfy chalet.
It was. As I hopped out of our van, the chime of cowbells echoed through the mountain in Balavaux, Switzerland. A slight fog covered the view early in the morning as we stood at 2100 metres high.
Wrapped in my scarf I walked into the cheese workshop. It was a bit funky in there and I had to stand outside for most of the introduction. The cheesemaker went through the process how he crafted three cheeses. I finally understood why cheese was so expensive. Cheese making in Switzerland was no joke.
First we learned about the Tomme cheese. Our guide explained, it it gets warmed to 35° after which it sat 1 hour and 30 minutes in salty water. It was then aged for a full 20-25 days in the cellar.
Next was the famous Raclette cheese which gets heated to 39° and rested for 24 hours in salty water. It was then aged 2 months in the cellar before it was ready to be served.
Finally, my favourite, the Serac. That cheese gets heated to 90° and is available the next day. We watched as he prepared a vat of 150 litres of milk for 13 tommes and 9 raclette cheese. A cheese lover would swoon.
While we waited for the cream to curdle for a batch of Serac cheese, we strolled about the grounds. First we went to the aging room where rounds of marked cheese sat on wooden shelves. The floor to ceiling shelves displayed either Tomme or Raclette cheese. I had no idea cheese making in Switzerland would be so interesting.
We then reentered the workshop where the cheese had started to lump up in the vat. I got used to the smell at that point. He lifted and strained the cheese in a cheese cloth and placed it into another station. It was then strained again, then portioned. The cheesemaker allowed us to try the fresh cheese. It was creamy and warm. The smooth texture and plain flavour reminded me of cottage cheese. We also tried the aged version of the cheese which was saltier.
We then took a long dirt road towards the sound of the cowbells where about 130 cows spent the summer. The bells chimed out of time, but made an incredible song as we approached. An electrical wire separated us from the cows in the field in front of us. But I still reached out a hand in case one of them wanted a cuddle. It was one of the most peaceful spots we visited on our 6-day Swiss adventure.
The group journeyed up a steep hill for the end of the tour where we finally got to eat a Swiss breakfast. Sophie served us that day and paired ham with fresh cheese and jam in the Balavaux mountain Cabin. I enjoyed my plate with a side of tea to warm me up from the crisp mountain air.
Those looking for an activity that’s out of the ordinary, add cheese making in Switzerland to your list! If you don't mind waking up early...