Rediscovering a Taste Sensation

Last updated on April 8th, 2020 at 06:49 am

Sura Kees from the Montafon in Vorarlberg is a regional speciality and one of the oldest cheeses in the world.

The cheese is particularly healthy because of its low fat content and the speciality is used in a variety of ways in the Montafon cuisine.

The Montafon has one of the oldest cheese making traditions in the Alpine region. Sour cheese (‘Sura Kees’) production flourished in the area from the 12th to the 17th century.

When rennet cheese emerged as an alternative the Sura Kees lost out because the newer type could be stored and transported, and was thus more suitable for trade outside the Montafon.

The Sura Kees also had to survive another crisis. By the end of the Sixties many Montafon alpine dairies had disappeared, and it was only in the 1990s that the Montafon Sura Kees was rediscovered and became popular as a historical part of the local cuisine.

Sura Kees production on the Alpe Nova
Sura Kees production on the Alpe Nova
© Stefan Kothner | Montafon Tourismus GmbH

The cheese is mainly produced during the summer months in the Alps. About 800 cows supply milk for the Sura Kees production on 13 alpine dairies. Some farms produce the cheese year-round now because demand has grown so much but the basic procedure has changed little since the 12th century.

The fact that the Sura Kees is made exclusively from skimmed milk means that the fat content is a maximum of two percent. The cheese is a healthy alternative to the classic mountain cheese, with its low fat and cholesterol content as well as high quality protein.

Sura Kees cheese from the Montafon region
Sura Kees production in the final stages
© Stefan Kothner | Montafon Tourismus GmbH

Freshly produced it tastes fresh, spicy and mildly aromatic. With increasing age, the flavour becomes more and more intense – but always with a subtle salty-sour undertone.

The best way to try the cheese is where it is produced. Attractive hiking trails and (e-)mountain bike routes lead to the mountain pastures. In addition, guided tours – for example, to the Alpe Nova – offer an insight into cheese production and summer life in the mountains.

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