• Kuh auf der Alm: Bergbauernhof Ganahl

    Mountain farm Ganahl: Here, only the cheese is sour

    At the Ganahl family farm in Vorarlberg, everything revolves around Sura Kees: once a poor man's cheese, today also sought after in top gastronomy: the Ganahls reawakened the passion for the sour-fermented speciality of the Montafon 30 years ago.

    Once scorned, now a cheese star

    An old tradition would almost have been eradicated if it had not been revived 30 years ago. Already the people of the Celts knew the sour fermented cheese, in short: Sura Kees. However, the light cheese lacked a good lobby, as it was not popular for a long time and became "poor man's cheese". Until Oswald Ganahl thought about how to change that.

    Today, in the middle of Montafon region, in the west of Austria, Thomas Ganahl and his father Oswald drive some of the 18 cows on the mountain farm to the Voralpe at over 1,400 metres. "Here the cattle stay until the meadows are lush and green in the high alpine pasture," explains Oswald Ganahl, who took over the farm from his father in 1987. 

    For the past year, son Thomas has been the manager of the mountain farm on the Bartholomäberg. Together with his family, he takes care of the animals and the production of Sura Kees. The sour fermented cheese has a long history in the region. The first traditions date back several hundred years.

    Hofladen: Bergbauernhof Ganahl

    Once considered a poor man's cheese, the light cheese was replaced by fattier rennet cheese. "Until my father and a few other farmers started making it again 30 years ago," says Thomas Ganahl. At that time they were still laughed at.

    Rennet is added to the milk to cause coagulation. This is how the curd is formed. The curd is pressed into moulds for further ripening, which solidifies it. Sour fermented cheese, on the other hand, is made without rennet. It is believed that the production of sour fermented cheese such as Sura Kees first happened in warmer climates by accident. The heat causes lactic acid fermentation to begin.

    Bergbauernhof Ganahl: Käsekeller

    Experience mountain culture in Vorarlberg

    Imperial butter cravings

    Not everyone liked the fact that only fatty mountain cheese was produced in Austria. The farmers could only deliver small amounts of butter to the Habsburgs because of the cheese production. Because the fat was in the cheese.

    However, the Habsburgs insisted on their butter deliveries and the responsible administration issued a ban on hard cheese production and an obligation to produce sour cheese several times in the 19th century. This was intended to counteract the falling supplies of butter and clarified butter. Even this did not help: Sura Kees was produced less and less.

    Until about 30 years ago, when Oswald Ganahl was able to convince agriculture, gastronomy and tourism that the cultural asset Sura Kees is important for the region. "Today, all 13 of the area's cow pastures produce Sura Kees."

    Pleasure in Vorarlberg

    •                     Bergbauernhof Ganahl: Käsekeller

      Sura Kees

      Craftsmanship tastes good: The sour-fermented cheese has a long tradition in the Montafon.
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    •                     Die Gastgeber Andrea und Mike Schwarzenbacher des Restaurant Mangolds

      Restaurant Mangold

      A visit to the top restaurant Mangold on Lake Constance.
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    •                     Hiking in Brandnertal

      Culinary hiking

      Get out into nature and enjoy: get to know Vorarlberg specialities.
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    A Matter of Taste

    The Ganahls don't have to be ashamed of their connection to the cheese history of the Montafon, because today Sura Kees is certainly no longer a poor man's food.

    In particular, the region's top chefs appreciate the craft and incorporate the cheese into their dishes. The young, mild Sura Kees with quinoa and zucchini quickly becomes a light summer dish, although the combination with bacon is also very popular. Just not as light.

    And although Sura Kees is a lean cheese, it has a tangy flavour. As it matures, the cheese, which is mildly aromatic at first, becomes slightly spicy to sour with a subtle salty undertone.

    "Not many people like the salty taste. So the cheese should be eaten quickly," says Oswald Ganahl. Incidentally, his son Thomas has been devoting himself to Camembert since recently. The trained farmer and carpenter has thus found his new destiny. His father also trained as a carpenter, but 'you can't do both'.

    •                     Bergbauernhof Ganahl: Kühe auf der Alm
    •                     Bergbaunerhof Ganahl: Käserei
    •                     mountain farm Ganahl, Vorarlberg

    A farmer with heart and soul

    Even though it wasn't a large farm back then, in 1987, Oswald Ganahl had to make a decision: "I am a farmer with heart and soul. That's why I hung up my apprenticeship and went into farming." Today, the family runs the farm, two holiday apartments, milk processing and direct sales.

    "Soft cheeses are not so common here in Montafon," explains Thomas Ganahl. "But Sura Kees and Camembert are not that far apart."

    For Thomas Ganahl, it is important to always evolve - same with Sura Kees. That's why the family sometimes refines the traditional cheese with herbs or sells it in the shape of a heart. The former poor man's cheese is also successful beyond the Montafon region. The low fat and cholesterol content as well as the high-quality protein make it a regional superfood.

    Visit the Ganahl family at Bartholomäberg

    Bergbauernhof Ganahl

    Kellerweg 4

    6781 Bartholomäberg


    +43 5556 74833

    Find your perfect accommodation in the Montafon region

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