Marsens (Fribourg canton), Switzerland
Who ever it was that many years ago hung up the photograph of gorgeous wheels of cheese in the dairy of Vuippens: Thank you! The picture caught the attention of Marc-Henri Horner. Not just because he never had seen this very kind of cheese but also because the wheels looked simply perfect.
Young cheese maker Horner who just had taken over the dairy with said picture after learning the craft under the wings of his uncle and then working four years in the dairy of Nods in the Bernese Jura to gain his title as Master Cheese Maker was nothing less than obsessed. And once he found out that the cheeses shown were Vacherins a l’Ancienne – Vacherins Fribourgeois made the old fashioned way – he was on a quest.
While still producing Gruyeres he started to study the art of and making Vacherin Fribourgeois. This semi hard cheese was very traditional to a vast area around the towns of Fribourg, Gruyere and the region Pays d’Enhaut. But since the industrialization of the dairy business in the sixties and parallel the request of the Swiss Cheese Union to uniform and streamline the appearance and flavors of cheeses (by only financially supporting the adapted ones) the Vacherin had become boring and even within Switzerland uninteresting. It was banned into the vacuum packed section of mass cheeses in super markets.
Horner changed this. He produces Vacherins of raw as well as of thermized milk. He still hand cuts the curd and pulls the thickened mass out of the copper cauldron in a thick linen towels. He still wraps the very moist and very delicate wheels with gauze to hold them together. Horners Vacherins show tiny little holes, not always evenly spread like it happens when the milk is left alive and happy.
The thermized Vacherins have a rustic looking, bumpy rind. The inside almost offers two experiences at once. The outer sides are creamy to runny while the core is firmer and kind of chalky. The flavors are lactic and earthy, sweet and acidic with always a perfect little hint of bitterness. The raw Vacherin look a bit tamer from the outside and is extremely creamy all the way through on the inside. It has more holes than its thermized sibling and the flavors are even more complex and layered. The profiles change with the seasons, the aging and the technique the maker chooses. Beautiful they always are. Just like those wheels in that old photograph.