Going into October, I find myself craving Alpine cheeses. They have an earthy quality I associate with root vegetables, like turnips and rutabagas. And oh honey, can they melt. Of the Alpine ilk, I have a weakness for Scharfe Maxx, a cow’s milk teaser with all the nuttiness of a Gruyère but the creamy texture of Raclette. I like it straight, with a glass of popping red wine, no plate, no condiments.
My grandparents are Swiss, so I grew up eating cheese that often smelled of wet socks. Happily, Scharfe Maxx does not rock the sock smell. It has a faint musty scent – more damp chalet than dirty laundry – and the taste is pleasantly beefy. Think: winter stew with pearl onions.
Scharfe Maxx is made in northern Switzerland, on the edge of Lake Konstanz. It only appeared state-side a few years ago, thanks to relaxed Swiss government restrictions on the dairy industry. Take a Google, and you’ll find this raw-milk cheese popping up at every major cheese shop and appearing on many menus, including a recent cheese plate served at the James Beard House.
If you’re new to strong cheese, or nervous about whiffy Alpines, give Scharfe Maxx a try. Tell me if it doesn’t make you think of autumn…of rich stews and acorns and, oh I dunno, cashmiere?
Scharfe Maxx is on special this month at Di Bruno Bros.