Sura Kees

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The "Sura Kees" cheese is an acidic cheese from the Austrian region of Montafon. Traditionally, it is made from raw and skimmed milk, and acidified through a spontaneous process in wooden containers without the addition of external cultures.


Cheese made from coagulated milk has been produced in the Vorarlberg Alps since the use of mountain pastures began. In the Montafon region, cheese production dates back to 1240, which is the first documented evidence of the name Montafon. Spontaneous aging of cheeses had already occurred in the region by the Celts who settled in Vorarlberg over two thousand years ago. However, the use of rennet in cheese production only reached the region between the 18th and 19th centuries. The tradition of rennet-based cheese gradually infiltrated this alpine region in Austria, where it merged with the million milk cheese tradition made from coagulated milk."

Production Process

The recipe for Sura Kees is one of the oldest among the cheeses in German-speaking regions. Initially, Sura Kees was produced both in the mountains and in the valley, in family consumption houses. Nowadays, nearly half of the mountain cheese shops in the Montafon region continue to produce this cheese without the addition of acidifiers. The milk is either skimmed by centrifugation or poured into flat wooden containers known as "BRENTA," from which the surface cream is removed for the production of raw milk butter. Then, the skimmed milk matures in the "Zuber," a large wooden container, until it reaches the desired level of acidity. The maturation time varies, as the milk is acidified at different rates depending on the temperature and climatic conditions. The acidified milk is then carefully poured into cheese vats and slowly heated to 40°C. Gradually, the "schotta" (whey) separates from the "bolmère" (curd). Once the curd reaches the necessary consistency and maturity, it is transferred to molds ("Käsker"). While the whey is drained from the molds, they are continuously stirred, flipped, and removed from the molds after approximately 24 hours. The cheeses are then moved to a cellar, where they cure. Many producers sprinkle paprika powder on the surface of the molds, in the past as a protection against parasite attacks and currently for aesthetic and flavor purposes. During the aging process, the cheese starts to develop a harmless characteristic mold layer, which is constantly turned and monitored. Gradually, the mold layer forms a yellow fat layer on the surface. The thicker the mold layer becomes and the longer the cheese ages, the more intense its flavor becomes. Approximately 10-12 liters of milk are required to produce 2 kg of cheese. Sura Kees is usually produced in cylindrical forms weighing between 2.5 and 5 kg.

Summer Variation

At the beginning of Alpine summer, producers and farmers in the mountains add watercress and/or black rye bread to the wooden container called "Zuber," along with fresh raw milk, to aid the acidification and coagulation process. When used correctly and at the appropriate temperature, the necessary lactic acid bacteria proliferate and form the basis for coagulated milk production throughout the summer. This process only needs to be done once, and an experienced cheese maker is able to maintain the bacteria in their wooden "Zuber" for the entire season.

Traditional Farming Methods

The cows graze in the mountain meadows, and hay is only used when weather conditions require it. In Alpe Garnera, around 35 cows from 15 different breeders are raised. The cattle come from small farms in Montafon, where it is widely bred. It is of fundamental importance for the survival of this cultural environment that the Alps continue to be used as pastureland.

Flavor and Consumption

Nowadays, Sura Kees is enjoyed in both fresh and aged forms. The aged variety can be aged for over a year. The fresh Soura Kees has a sour, slightly aromatic, and firm consistency. The aged Soura Kees has a very intense flavor despite its low fat content. The older or highly aged cheese is covered with "mold," a surface that ranges from golden yellow to reddish brown. Its flavor is bitter and spicy, and it intensifies with age. Cheese enthusiasts can enjoy the Sura Kees specialty in many Montafon restaurants, either in its traditional fresh form or aged. Sura Kees is typically served as an appetizer, topped with oil, vinegar, and onions, and accompanied by whole-grain bread. It pairs particularly well with potatoes or spaetzle, which are very popular in Austrian cuisine. Sura Kees can be stored for several months if kept below 10°C. It is considered a miraculous remedy for hunger.

Note: The article is written in the English language as requested, but the provided information was used to create the content.

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