A Swiss Village Fromagerie

It is always a delight to stumble across artisanal food producers and it is hardly surprising that the Alps region of France and Switzerland hosts many fine cheese and dairy producers – fromagerie and laiterie. Cattle and goats graze freely on open pastureland, their milk rich and delicious from the uncultivated flora and fauna they find on their way.

Amidst the winding roads and ancient chalets of Bruson, just a stone’s throw from the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, a faint, slightly sour aroma will raise your eyes up towards Eddy Baillifards’ Fromargerie. He sets a busy pace with his daily churning of cheese, cream and butter, some of which is sold at his counter on the premises and the rest shipped further afield.

The dairy process begins early each morning – we were told to be there by 8am to see the cheese making, but it was well under way when we arrived. By this time, a huge aluminum jug, big enough to swallow up my 12 year old son, of goat’s milk was undergoing its first stage of churning, whilst the cow’s milk had been transferred to huge copper vats, heating the milk whilst it was agitated into curds and whey. From a sub-zero winter’s morning we opened the door and entered the warm, sweet, humid world of a Master Cheese Maker – I expected quite an overpowering acrid blast to waft our way, but once inside we were enveloped by its gentle creaminess.

The two copper vats dominate the cheese making room. Each vat was set to a different temperature. One to a very warm 90c after which the curds would be formed into a rustic pyramid shaped soft cheese, and the other heating the milk to a cooler 40c, for just 30 minutes. The curds and whey were already separating so it was just about time to gather the solids in a traditional way.

A giant sized piece of cheesecloth is set into a metal frame and the curds literally fished from the tank and into waiting metal presses to be squeezed into blocks, removing more residual liquid. Afterwards, these curd-blocks are pressed into perforated cylindrical moulds, where for the next 24 hours any final drips can drain away.

This is the initial stage of making raclette cheese – an Alpine specialty, where morsels of this cheese are melted at the table, using what appears to be a table-top grill then poured over cooked potatoes and served with local cured meats and salad.

These young cheeses are then tipped from their moulds, washed in a brine bath and stored in specialist caves to mature - caves which have a constant humidity and temperature 10 to 12c.

We bought a selection of cheeses - robustly flavoured hard cheese and a deliciously mild and creamy disc of buffalo's milk cheese. The latter is a realtively new addition to their range and other than saying the buffalo herd was nearby, we didn't ever establish the whereabouts of their pasture ground.

Eddy Baillifard Fromagerie
CH 1934 Bruson

Tel: 027 776 14 70
Fax: 027 776 26 85

Opening times: Monday to Saturday 8 -12 then 17.30 – 19; Sunday 8 -11