Thursday, April 14, 2011

Willi Schmid's Millstone

In a land united by wonderful dairy products, cheesemaker Willi Schmid represents the new school of Swiss cheese. Schmid is a true innovator and creates over two dozen cheeses that most wouldn't associate with the grand mountain cheeses of Switzerland. Though making cheese is a relatively new venture for Schmid, his creations have already been recognized as some of the very best in all of Switzerland. Swiss affineur (professional cheese ager) Rolf Beeler said of Schmid, "No other cheesemaker in our country is as talented, as curious and as innovative as Willi".

He creates cheese on a tiny scale in his small creamery in Lichtensteig, about an hour east of Zurich. Each day he personally collects goat, cow, sheep, or water buffalo's milk from his farmers. He only decides what cheese to make after tasting the milk. This is practically unheard of, as most cheesemakers adhere to a rigid cheesemaking schedule and market demands. Not Willi. His artistic nature, the milk characteristics, and the seasons determine which cheese is made. Schmid fervently defends the tradition of using pure, raw milk as he (and most cheesemakers) believe the best cheese is made with unadulterated, raw milk. It is a fundamental notion that flavors of the land shine through if milk is absolutely pure and made into cheese very soon after the animals are milked.

Among his many cheeses is Millstone, a large cheese made into a shape of a wheel (or a millstone), with a hole in the middle. Made from raw Jersey cow's milk, the yellowish paste is semi soft in texture and riddled with many, small "mechanical" holes. The gray rind grows naturally during the cheese's six to ten week ripening period in Schmid's aging rooms. The aroma of the rind is musty but delicate, while the paste has a sweet milky aroma. It does have a cow smell, not to be confused with a farm smell. There are no funky, unclean aromas of a rustic barn. The flavors are clean, rich, and the taste of the pastures that the cows graze on shine through. It also offers a well-balanced acidity which rounds out the cheese.

Millstone differs from the typical Alpine cheeses that Arrowine sells. It is relatively young and does not offer the very deep, complex nutty flavors of say, Hoch Ybrig or Gruyere. This can be a welcome change, as Millstone can be eaten casually everyday on it's own and in cooking.

Though we have developed a strong relationship with Willi Schmid and Caroline Hostettler, the fantastic importer who discovered Willi, we have found it difficult to keep a steady supply of his cheese in stock. Around the world, demand for his creations is huge. Schmid only releases his cheese when he deems them perfect, which we all respect, but sometimes the timing is not in our favor. Be sure to ask the mongers at Arrowine if we have any of his cheeses, they are all beautiful and deserve your attention. At this time, we have about half a wheel left of Millstone. Stop in soon for a taste, this exceptional cheese won't last long.

~Katie Carter, cheesemonger

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