When I started planning what we could do around Lindau, I was over the moon to notice that the Käseschule Cheese School in Thalkirchdorf was only a 20-minute drive away. I booked places online for all three of us a few weeks in advance.
The short journey to Thalkirchdorf took us through beautiful forests, rolling hills and meadows dotted with cows munching their way through the fresh grass. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t stop filming and taking pictures!
A calm and relaxing Bavarian oasis
The tiny village of Thalkirchdorf is located next to the better-known town of Oberstaufen. We arrived in time to have a wander around this beautiful village before our cheese course started. The village had a restaurant with a lovely beer garden, a shop, a hotel and the cheese school. By the time we arrived at the school and Heinz Reischmann, the very friendly cheese expert introduced himself, we had begun to get really excited about this new experience.
Did you know that the Allgäu region is well-known for its cheese?
The Allgäu region has a long history of making cheese that dates back thousands of years. Until dairy farming was established, the Allgäu region was a very poor area, with many families struggling to survive. Nowadays, the Allgäu region is thriving with its 500,000 inhabitants making a good living from dairy farming as well as the tourist industry.
Originally, the cheese was only produced for local people and for those living as far as the Alps. In the 19th century, Swiss dairy farmers started making Allgäu Emmental cheese, laying the foundation for cheese production on a much larger scale. After linen production declined in the 19th and 20th centuries, more and more dairies began opening up, giving new prosperity to the region.
The dairies began improving methods and inventing their own cheese recipes, which were then passed down from generation to generation. Industrialisation and mass cheese production then caused many of the dairies in the region to close down. However, the dairies that did survive still produce the typical Allgäu Alpine and Emmental cheeses as well as other delicious chesses. Sustainability, authenticity and an organic production are all important factors for most of the dairies. Traditionally, they only use milk (hay milk) from the cows that graze on the grass (or hay) from the local meadows. The Allgäu region has around 40 working alpine dairies with its cheese being distributed around the world.
A very popular event happens every September. Cattle are brought down from the mountains into the valley and a traditional ceremony takes places in many of the local villages. Heinz told us how popular the event is in Oberstaufen – so much so that the farmers get so carried along with all the celebrations that they find it difficult to focus on its real purpose! It’s a wonderful ceremony, which is accompanied by typical Bavarian music and people wearing traditional costumes. Even the cows are adorned with flowers! You can find the dates for cattle ceremonies in Bavaria here.
Heinz the local
Heinz gave us all a warm welcome and told us some interesting facts about the Allgäu region and how he used to help out on the dairy farm as a boy. He learned everything there was to know about milk and cheese and soon became an expert. He then worked for several global dairy companies in various places around the world. It was really fascinating to listen to his stories and anecdotes.
Let’s make cheese!
Now it was time to make some cheese – so we rolled up our sleeves, put on our aprons (which are provided) and got down to making some delicious cheese.
The room consisted of a large table (which seated around 10 people) and was prepared with all the utensils we needed for the course (including aprons). It all looked very clean and the cows pictured on the massive poster of the Allgäu region made us feel as if we were out in the meadows! The copper saucepans already contained fresh milk, which is the basis for making cheese.
It doesn’t seem like there’d be much to do when making cheese but patience and finding the perfect temperature is crucial! We learned how to make a cheese that is a mix between feta and mozzarella – known as Fetarella.
Here is a quick overview of our cheese making process:
- Gently stir the fresh, organic milk
- Acidify the milk by adding live bacteria
- Heat the milk to 35C
- Add the rennet and stir
- Allow to cool until the milk becomes gelatinous
- Cut the curd into cubes and stir
- Heat the mixture to 38C
- Stir for about 5-10 minutes
- Drain the curd and put into moulds
- Salt is added after the whey has been separated from the curd
- The cheese needs to be turned after 3-4 hours
- 10-14 hours later the cheese can be taken out of the moulds
- The cheese is then seasoned and marinated
Sampling the cheese
While our milk mixture was resting for a few minutes, Heinz showed us the room where the cheeses are kept to mature. We also got the chance to sample several different kinds of cheese. We really liked the Alpine cheese (Bergkäse), which had a strong savoury and aromatic flavour to it. The flavour comes from the fact that the cows only eat fresh grass and certain herbs. The delicious cheese from the Thalkirchdorf dairy certainly doesn’t contain any additives or preservatives and honestly, you can taste it!
Hay schnapps to christen the cheese
Once we finished making our cheese, Heinz introduced the adults to some homemade Allgäu schnapps to celebrate our success. The schnapps is made using hay and has an alcohol volume of 30%. Heinz then handed out some song sheets with lyrics and encouraged us to sing along together. I must admit, it was a lovely end to the course! We then had to leave our cheese for another hour or so to give Heinz to prepare some lovely little buckets to take our cheese home.
It was a great experience and a wonderful place to learn all about the history of cheese making. I can highly recommend it if you are ever in the Allgäu region!
- Dorfhaus Thalkirchdorf is also a beautiful hotel with luxurious rooms and various sized apartments
- The course we did took about 2 hours
- Courses are also available in English
- Ideal also for families (2 people per saucepan)
- Perfect for corporate events (people can stay in the attached hotel)
- There are several outdoor entertainment parks in the proximity. For example, the Hündle Entertainment Park in Oberstaufen is only 3.6km from Dorfhaus Thalkirchdorf. It has an impressive 850m summer toboggan run, which has 16 turns and more than two jumps
I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you follow our experience and if you need any help organising your trip to Lake Constance, just leave a comment here or on my social media accounts Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest .You’ll see plenty more pictures from our cheese making experience. You can also send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.