By Franz Scheurer
The Canton of Glarus is one of Switzerland’s most picturesque. A mountainous area, less than half of its surface is classified as ‘productive’. Huge glaciers, large forests and high alpine peaks (The Todi reaches 11,887 ft) protect the villages and make access difficult, which is manifested in the many crafts and foods available that go back to ancient times.
One of the most characteristic products is Schabzieger. It is a herb cheese made with skim milk, flavoured by a local type of clover, Steinklee (Melilotus officinalis) also known as King Clover, Sweet Lucerne or White Melilot. The curds are brought down from the huts on the Alpine pastures in autumn, mixed with the dried clover powder, ground in a mill, then pressed into cone shaped moulds. Left to mature it is ready for consumption after about one year and keeps literally indefinitely. The older it gets the stronger and harder it gets and the more sought after by the Swiss.
Sold, wrapped in foil, Schabzieger is a shade of green and is usually freshly grated at the time of consumption. (It is possible to buy grated Schabzieger, but like Parmesan, it is probably already rancid by the time you buy it) Grated and mixed with unsalted butter, it is popular, spread on sourdough and Schabzieger is often used as a condiment, mixed into pasta, fondues and soups. It is very strong and an unusual flavour, perceived similarly by foreigners as Vegemite is in Australia.
It is available in Australia from some delicatessens and at Iseli, Swiss Butcher in Ashfield. Try it, mixed with butter, spread on rusks as an accompaniment to a fennel soup. It is wonderful… or at least a conversation piece.