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“The first wolf is already around! We just had to start, otherwise it would have been too late.”
Indirectly this is the story of the Langenburger Schafkäserei’s latest creation, their Pyrenäenkäse or Pyrenees cheese. In contrast to some of his colleagues Norbert Fischer isn’t against the re-introduction of wolves in the wild on principle. “I’m happy to live with wolves”, he says, “I like the wilderness, I’d love to have much more of it.”
Since the dairy’s beginnings in the late 1970s the thoughtful man with the meanwhile grey hair and full beard walks the hillsides along the Jagst river’s valley, a Neckar tributary in northern Baden-Württemberg, with his sheep. Maintaining this landscape is close to his heart, even if it leads to smaller milk yields; 300 liter per animal per year are the maximum. “The consumer wants wolves, therefore she also has to acknowledge this financially and contribute to the shepherd’s consequences, because wolf and sheep have to feel at ease.” Even special fences do not protect against wolves, which means a shepherd needs reliable dogs. “We are milking 200 sheep, that’s three flocks, so I need six dogs – that’s costing us!”
Great Pyrenees are large, friendly animals with a long haired white coat who since centuries have been kept in the mountains of southern France and northern Spain as a protection agains wolves and bears. They probably feel even more at home on the Jagst because they came here together with some Basco-Béarnaise sheep. About a year ago Norbert Fischer started to crossbreed those with his flock of white East Friesian milk sheep. “I just fell in love with those sheep”, he says, “everything is beautiful about them, the horns, the elegant gait, the wool – and they are rather undemanding and are rather generous with their milk.” Great Pyrenees dogs and sheep from the Pyrenees lead to Pyrenees cheese – of course. In fact the compact round wheel reminds me of classics such as Ossau-Iraty from the French Basque Country: around two kilos, with a sparsely washed (and therefore aromatically rather discreet) dry rind, the pale ivory coloured paste semihard without having been pressed, so full of a fair amount of small, irregular holes. It smells of melted butter and fresh oregano, starts rather quietly on the palate, but builds up its presence, dissolving on the tongue into dense creaminess. Acidity and salt are both well integrated – and to make this clear once again: “Everybody who wants wolves has to buy a wheel of Pyrenäenkäse!”
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