Wolfgang Mätzler – haute cuisine to go
Preserving on the highest level: in Vorarlberg’s Bregenzerwald, award-winning chef Wolfgang Mätzler combines the finest ingredients in jars.
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.
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."
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'.
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.