Local Food Stories

Dairy products

Visiting a World Champion

Städtlichäsi Lichtensteig
#rawmilkcheese #switzerland

Willi Schmid’s working day begins at five in the morning. This is when the first farmer delivers his milk. During the following hours other milk deliveries arrive one after the other in a set order. Willi Schmid insists on this as, ‘The milk tastes different from each farm.’ Willi uses this unique taste factor to produce his cheese. This is why individual deliveries are put into their own cauldron and immediately dealt with. Another detail which belongs to Willi’s basic rules is, ‘I only use raw milk. It is full of enzymes which help the calves to digest the milk.’

Pasteurised milk is a dead liquid

In the eyes of the expert cheese production is basically a controlled ripening and breaking down of proteins. Enzymes in raw milk guarantee a wide protein breakdown during ripening which is what gives the taste variety to cheese. Pasteurised milk on the other hand is like, ‘Castrating the initial product.’ The milk remains milk but is a dead liquid.
While we are on the principles of Willi Schmid you will not find foreign ingredients like pepper, capsicum or herbs in his cheese. ‘The taste has to come from the cheese itself and not from any other herbs and spices.’

Magic through rennet, salt and bacteria 

Willi Schmid knows how to make really good cheese. The proof is through all the national and international awards his products have achieved, including two world championship titles. One of the world titles was won by the ‘Mühlestein’ translated as mill stone, a semi-hard natural mould cheese made from cow milk. The Mühlestein is one of his first cheeses that has been produced since 2006 in the Schmid’s cheese dairy, Städlichasi, in the small village of Lichtensteig.

Since then a large variety of cheeses such as Blue Goat, Woody Sheep and Jersey Blue are now a part of the range. The many won prizes and awards have caused quite a media stir. Thanks to this, famous restaurants and exclusive cheese shops have noticed Willi Schmid’s products. With resounding success, ‘Our cheeses are available on all continents.’
Regardless of this the Schmid family do not want to expand. Quality instead of quantity is the reason. 

The dairy processes about 700,000 litres of milk per year which corresponds to 100 tonnes of cheese. A lot? ‘No, this amount would be produced in a few days in an industrial dairy.’ Today, besides Willi and his wife, four other employees work in the business. Despite having employees the master-cheese maker works every day in the dairy. This is because one of the reasons for the constantly high quality of cheese is a special gift that Willi possesses. He has an extremely sensitive palate. Already as a child he could tell from which cow his father had taken the milk and he could even say what that cow had been fed. 

A respectful way with nature, animal and human

However, Willi stresses that it is not only his special ability that has led to the success of the much loved cheese. Just as important are the farmers and their animals which his milk comes from. ‘Cheese starts at the slurry tank.’ When, how much and with what the farmer fertilizes is decisive. On fields that have been fertilized correctly, fifty to one hundred different plants can grow. The more variety of plants growing, the larger the taste spectrum becomes for the milk.
The mixed variety of plants goes for the vegetation but not for the animals that Willi Schmid acquires his milk from. ‘I’m quite a racist on this point.’ he says smiling. Cows need to be breeds of Jersey, Swiss Browns or Buffalo. For goats Willi prefers the fawn coloured mountain breed. The reason for this limited selection is due to the quality of milk which contains a very specific ratio of protein and fat which suits his production needs.
How farmers care for their animals’ welfare, their handling of the land, short transportation routes of the milk and a fine feeling and sense while handling the milk during  production makes Willi Schmid’s cheese just what it is: a World Champion.