Scharfe Maxx

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Milk: Cow, Unpasteurized (Thermized)

Country: Switzerland, Thurgau

Texture: Firm

Accompaniment: Dry whites like Pinot Gris

The Studer family has been making cheese in the Swiss canton of Thurgau, near the German border, for three generations. The dairy initially produced Emmentaler and then transitioned to Appenzeller, both centuries-old Swiss cheeses with tightly controlled identities.

About a decade ago, the two Studer brothers who run the business now, along with a third partner, began expanding the creamery's line, creating a few proprietary cheeses such as Scharfe Maxx as a response to the collapse of the Swiss Cheese Union, a government agency that was responsible for subsidizing the production of traditional Swiss cheeses such as Emmentaler and Gruyere.

Like Appenzeller, Scharfe Max is made by heating the milk to just short of pasteurization. This makes it a raw milk cheese under FDA rules although many in Europe would disagree with that. The cheese is also made in the same molds as Appenzeller, but to give the cheese some extra smoothness the cheese makers add extra cream. The four month aging process is also very much the same although the secret concoction that is used to wash the rind may differ.

The sharpness that gives the cheese its name is not as prominent as the name suggests, the cheese has a very pleasant taste pattern with hints of onion and mushroom. The aromas that the washing with the brine created are also certainly not aggressive although definitely noticeable.

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