This is one of those stories which take you aback by its unexpectedness. Because of course you know that there was no such tradition as making of hard ripened cheeses, and here you go! Emmental from a mountain valley Menchul, which is not far from Kvasy on Transcarpathia.
I will begin a little bit from afar, as I usually like it.
The end of the 19th century, good old Austria needs Carpathian resources – forests, salt, iron. For this in the 1870’s a project of Transcarpathian railway was created. It has to unite Vienna and Budapest with East Carpathians. In that “Opus magnum” there were, for example, branches Marmarosy Island (Sziget) – Rakhiv – Kőrösmező (now Yasinia), which should have been joined with a branch Voronienka – Nadvirna – Stanyslaviv in Galicia. The railway should have gone through rivers Tysa and Prut.
Engineers from the whole empire were invited to build this railway – Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Croatians, Germans. And they all left here traces from their staying, somebody stayed for good. For instance, there is quite an interesting story about Italians in Carpathians, who built the railway, and who were later quite harshly assimilated, and now only second names can indicate that they were there.
Here I can only fantasize what influence all these people had on a gastronomic culture of the region…It is needed to dig deeper…
This railway brought both good and evil to our area. On the one hand – development of the empire outskirts, transport connection. While on the other hand – Hutsul culture which was strictly protected by Hutsuls from aliens, became open for others. My “comrade-in-arms” Vitaliy Kachkan (“Muliarovyis’ Restaurant”, Ivano-Frankivsk), who knows Hutsulian history one hundred times better than me, says that there are very obvious changes in Hutsul clothes and their household stuff after the 1880’s. But this is a topic for completely different story, somewhen I will tell it to you.
But let’s get back to the main topic, because it’s interesting. So, emmental from a meadow Menchul.
When “a train arrived” countless possibilities emerged for the region’s development. Austro-Hungarian government decided to use Alpine experience and develop here milk industry and cheesemaking. The more so that Hutsuls already had been doing that.
So, at the end of the 19th century a Hungarian economist and specialist in the sphere of farming Edmund Ehan created a specific program of a milk-cheesemaking sphere development of Carpathians mountainous area.
“Conditions of Carpathians highlands are created by the nature itself, they are less rocky than Alps and more sloping, there are more feed types in pastures, while clean springs and mountainous air are very advantageous for making various cheese sorts”
The program of Mr.Ehan gained government support and on Kvasy meadow Menchul cheesemaking factory was built and making of emmental was arranged. It was chosen as “a sample Swiss cheese”, which has to be made in “almost Swiss” conditions – Carpathians highlands.
On special exhibitions in Vienna and other cities of Austro-Hungary “emmental from a meadow” gained high marks.
After the empire’s dissolution in 1919 the area became a part of the Czechoslovak Republic, which continued development of milk and cheese making on the outskirts of Rakhiv.
More farms appeared, state no-interest loans were given for milk factories building. Good roads were built, new cheesemaking factories were equipped. According to aggregated data of economic performance of Undercarpathians Rus in 1938 in the state meadows near Rakhiv 16 thousand kg of Emmental were produced per year.
Emmental and other products were every day delivered to Prague by train.
What is interesting is that these milk farms of this area always had state support – with Austria, with The Czech Republic, and then again with Austria. They improved cattle stock, brought breeding bull from Switzerland, gave bonuses to the best landlords, arranged workshops on cheesemaking art.
Another moment which needs to be taken into consideration is that cheesemaking on Menchul was a household, organized with the state’s support. And Hutsuls, as we know it, were not extremely pleased when somebody interfered in their world. So, making of hard cheeses was not widely spread, Hutsuls on meadows continued making traditional for them bryndza.
What is also exciting is that for cattle to have what to eat on meadows was organized very interesting system (so-called “Keider’s”) of soil refeeding, which gave good harvest, which was even exported. How was it done? (very vulnerable better not read it) – stables with cattle were put on slopes, and with the help of a special system pus was spread on them, which fed grass and always gave juicy harvest. Just like that.
In 1941 National Centre of Hungarian milk cooperatives built wooden cheesemaking factory with a boiler for 1200 liters and a screw press. The cheese factory had its own water supply system, which was filled from a spring. And every day up to 100 kg of Emmental were made here.
Emmental from a meadow was certified by the biggest cheese producer in Hungary, company of Stauffer family, immigrants from Switzerland.
That’s how it is. It’s not like we have only “Bukovel”.
Thank you for the materials to Oleh from the project Transcarpathian Heritage. The photo on the cover – from a journal Prager Presse, number 47 from October 22, 1925.
And for those who are interested in reading about the Carpathians railway (that’s extremely interesting, believe me!) – here.