Edelschaf means “noble sheep,” and it’s clear that the mountain farmers of Zillertal, Austria, focus their animals’ diets accordingly. Flocks feed exclusively on Alpine pastures of fresh grass, clovers, and herbs during summer, and on sun-dried hay and mineral-rich coarse grain in winter. Thus the milk qualifies as Heumilch, or “hay milk,” which may contain twice the amount of omega-3 fatty acids compared to conventional milk.
Health benefits are not the only motivation to use Heumilch. By processing the milk of cows, goats, and sheep from 400 mountain farmers, Sennerei Zillertal helps to sustain the rural economy and traditional lifestyle in this mountainous area, which is also famous for its skiing.
Made from pasteurized sheep’s milk and aged five months, firm Edelschaf-Schafskäse cheese is repeatedly smeared with cultures that turn its surface a striking red.
Its flavor is der wurzige, or aromatic and savory. Notes of dark caramel, cocoa, almond, and walnut are interlaced with herbal nuances of cauliflower, boiled potatoes, and malt. Close to the rind, notes of ammonia and yeast are present from the red smear.
Edelschaf-Schafskäse’s layered flavors require cured meats including salumi—plus a pint of hefeweizen.