Nufenen is another in the class of Swiss alpine cheeses that I love, easy-eating but with a beautiful, gamey complexity. I wrote about Challerhocker a little while ago, and the Nufenen is another in this style of Alpine. The official name is Nufener Bio Bergkäse “Wurzig” (which translates roughly to “Nufener Organic Mountain Cheese, Spicy”), and it’s made by the Sennerei Nufenen organic (“bio”) dairy cooperative, located in eastern Switzerland, in the Graubünden canton, the coop comprised of 22 dairy farmers from the surrounding region. Nufenen is a relatively young cheese, in production for some fifty years now (which, compared to long lineages of some of its Swiss Alpine cousins, makes it a baby).
The milk for the Nufenen comes from alpage herds, which is to say that the Braunvieh cows are brought up into the mountains in the summer, to graze on the unique blend of grasses, herbs and other flora found in the rolling alpine pastures, during which time these seasonal cheeses are fabricated.
Nufenen comes in relatively smaller format compared to to other Alpines, 10” in diameter and about 12 lbs in weight. The milk is thermalised — which is essentially pasteurization but at lower temperatures and for a briefer time than full pasteurization — to gently knock down the counts for the native cultures without wiping them out altogether, while also controlling undesirable cultures. In Europe, there are actually three classifications of milk processing recognized: Raw, Thermalised and Pasteurized. But as far as US regulators are concerned, anything less than full pasteurization, including thermalised, is considered “Raw” and treated as such.
The Nufenen is aged for 5-8 months before export, with the rind washed regularly with a special brine blend during flipping, developing the reddish-brown, slightly tacky rind and the deep caramel-brown strip under the rind. The paste is golden with a scattering of small round eyes; dense and creamy, with a distinct aroma similar to chicken broth, with floral notes. The flavor is buttery, nutty and fruity, a little bit of a “spicy” personality as the name implies — although it’s not spicy in the sense of hot but more of an herbal, complex quality — with meaty, hazelnut and caramelized onion notes and a subtle barnyard pungency on the finish.
Purchased at Stinky Brooklyn.