We are absolutely delighted to have added Alp Trosen to the Adopt-an-Alp program. The pristine meadows below the massive Säntis peak are forever linked with our family. In 2010 our son Ty (11 at the time) spent a few weeks of transhumance on Alp Trosen and Alp Flies with Master cheesemaker Jakob “Köbi” Knaus sr.
Since then Köbi has sold the operation to one of his sons, Köbi jr. Together with his wife Rösli they are now their son’s employees. Throughout the year Köbi sr. helps on the farm while Rösli takes care of the aging cellar. And when summer comes Köbi sr. moves from Unterwasser in the Toggenburg valley up to Alp Flies and then Alp Trosen with 35 cows including 15 of their own. He is joined by a herd of goats and pigs. Besides the Alpkäse he produces “Mutschli”, Ziger (sap sago), butter, yoghurt and the famous “Bloderkäse”. This is an ancient type of cheese made of sour milk.
That “age-old tradition of cheese making served to sustain the individual farmsteads long before the advent of Swiss cheese. Yet this oldest of Swiss cheeses would be long forgotten by now, had it not been for dairymen like Jakob Knaus, strong Alpine men with broad shoulders and hands like shovels, proud proponents of the ancient Swiss cheese tradition.” (Exerpt from the book “Swiss Cheese” by Dominik Flammer&Fabian Scheffold, available through Quality Cheese).
Ancient is indeed the word when it comes to the Knaus operation. Although there have been some renovations on the chalet on the lower Alp Trosen (4500 ft.) the one on Alp Flies (up to 6000 ft.) is nothing more than a hut. Amenities is a foreign word up there as our son easily can confirm. On Trosen tradition has resisted the change of time. The cheeses are made on an open fire in the only room of the hut where the cheesemaker also eats and sleeps. Ty had his sleeping bag on a “stage” just above the stable.
Nevertheless the whole operation is organic certified. And on the modern side the Knaus family works with the University of Zurich on different projects. There are windmills to create electricity that is used to run a small fridge and a lamp in the stable because cows don’t like the dark. And there’s also a bag filled with water on the roof that allows for a warm shower in the evening.
The location is typical for Alps in the Canton St. Gall in the Eastern Alps. Centuries ago the chalets were built in a certain line, like they were “glued” to the slopes. This is to protect from the fall winds as well as from the powerful avalanches in the winter. This is similar to Alps in the Canton Ticino in the Italian speaking South.