It wouldn’t have been my choice but a Swiss gruyère was named the world’s best cheese at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin on Thursday 5th March.
The win gave Michael Spycher of Mountain Dairy Fritzenhaus in Bern, Switzerland his second victory (his first was in 2008). In fact, it was a Swiss 1-2 as a hard cheese called Gallus Grand CRU finished second.
This year’s tournament, the first since 2018, received a record 3,667 entries from 26 countries but due to international travel restrictions, 30 Japanese university representatives couldn’t attend.
A while back, I wrote about pule, a unique cheese made from donkey milk. Well, there’s another expensive and rare cheese out there and it’s made from moose milk.
Moose cheese brings in the cheddar
Christer and Ulla Johansson are the two farmers from Älgens Hus (Elk/Moose House) farm in Bjurholm, Sweden and they’re believed to be the world’s only producer of moose cheese. Due to its rarity, the moose milk generates 300kg of cheese per year at a cost of over £750 per kg (around $1,000). That makes it one of the most expensive cheeses in the world.
What kind of cheese does moose milk make?
The milk creates four types of cheese:
Two types of blue cheese (dry and creamy)
As well as being sold, the Johansson’s also serve the cheese at their Älgens Hus’ restaurant in Sweden.
This is all made possible by three female moose named Gullan, Haelga, and Juno who lactate for 5 months of the year between May and September.
Why not visit The Moose House?
As well as the moose cheese, you can also visit Älgens Hus and take a tour around the farm. Say hello to all the tame moose and moose calves witness the Kings (and Queens) of the Forest in all their Scandanavian splendour.
The farm is a 30-minute bus ride and walk from Bjurholm busstation on the 113. By car, it’s around 10 minutes.
I add extra cheese to any pizza I buy (and I eat a lot of pizza). But 154 different varieties? I’d go into a cheese coma. 400 Gradi is a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. Its chef Johnny Di Francesco is the man behind a new Guinness World Record – The World’s Cheesiest Pizza.
The previous record stood at 111 by Johnny himself, after his initial 99-Cheese Pizza (a brilliant reference to Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). But he wanted to set a new benchmark. Needless to say, he accomplished it again.
“We had an overwhelming response from our customers, so much so that they petitioned to have it a permanent menu item. Since then we decided to up the ante and create a 154-cheese pizza.”
What I want to know is what cheeses were used? Johnny told the Guinness Book of Records, “the cheeses included the likes of gorgonzola, pecorino, Taleggio, aged cheddar, gouda and of course, many more!” The pizza has been so popular, it sold out of all 400 Gradi venues within five days, with a total of 797 sold. Okay, I need to stop writing about this as my mouth is watering.
Balkan donkeys might as well be golden geese for what they produce. Pule cheese is hard to buy and therefore very expensive (you can try the Zasavica natural reserve in Serbia if you’re really desperate).
What is pule cheese?
Pule cheese (or magareći sir in Serbian) is a type of cheese made from made from 60% donkey milk and 40% goat’s milk.
How much does pule cost?
According to cheese.com, a pound of pulecosts approximately $576 a pound (about £426). But why is it so expensive? Scarcity. Donkey milk is very rare and difficult to produce so not something you’d waste on a cup of tea.
Why is it so rare?
A female donkey (known as a ‘jenny’) only makes around 3 pints of milk a day, which is about 25-30 times less than a cow. There are also fewer solids in donkey milk compared to cow’s milk so more is needed to make the same amount of hard cheese. Then you have to factor in labour costs as machines aren’t cost-effective for such a small enterprise. It’s just 100 endangered Balkan donkeys and a few milkers. You also have to order the cheese in advance before it’s made to reduce waste which makes sense.
What does pule taste like?
You may be wondering what you’re getting for cheese worth so much. Well, don’t expect culinary nirvana (unless you like manchego). The cheese is white and crumbly and packs a strong flavour similar to the La Mancha cheese. It’s nutritional value also shares similarities with another type of milk billions of babies enjoy every day: human breast milk. Amongst the vast array of milk brands on offer for babies, donkey milk is the most unique for sure.
Where can you buy it?
The good news is pule cheese is exported to the UK, Germany and the rest of the world are expected soon but you may have heard in the news a few years ago that Serbia’s own Novak Djokovic bought the world’s entire supply in 2012. I wonder if he had to ‘pule’ some strings to arrange that. *ahem* Sorry, that was too cheesy, even for me.
Pule cheese in numbers
60 – The percentage of donkey milk that goes into making pule cheese (the other 40% comes from goat’s milk)
576 – The cost in USD for a pound of pule
3 – The pints of milk a jenny can make in a day
100 – The number of Balkan donkeys left on the planet
2012 – The year Novak Djokovic bought the world’s entire supply (which has since been replenished)
Update: apparently, there’s a song called Pule Cheese. Do what you will with that information.