One of Sweden's largest organic farms, Almnäs Bruk lies just south of a small town called Hjo in the county of Västra Götaland. Its farmers grow grass, wheat, barley and the ancient grain spelt, which originated in Asia some 8,000 years ago. Five years ago, the farm also opened a workshop for processing its organic milk, and it now produces some truly unusual cheeses. They were impossible to miss while wandering among the stalls of the International Market at Cheese, and that's how we heard the story of this farm and the people who have left their mark over its two centuries of history.
Built on the shores of Lake Vättern in the 17th century, the immense farm was intended to house various artisanal workshops: a mill, a dairy and a distillery, as well as a brick factory. As the farmers' children played barefoot in the farmyard, they would leave their footprints on the fresh bricks left out to dry in the sun. These small footprints inspired the logo for the brick production. Centuries later, in the same playful spirit, the cheesemakers of Almnäs Bruk decided to use the same symbol for their cheese.
The recent revival of the farm's cheese production is one of its most exciting projects. After two years of building works on an old distillery dating from 1770, production started in 2008. After a half century with no cheesemaking at Almnäs Bruk, expert cheesemaker Elisabeth Andersson and her assistant Thomas Nolberger are proud of the results they have obtained in just a few years, and the popularity of their products at Cheese is just another feather in their cap.
Almnäs Tegel, another one of their cheeses, has the same shape and color as the farm's bricks, and features tiny child-like footprints imprinted into the rind. The huge cheese is produced and stored using techniques that date from the Middle Ages and weighs about 25 kilos. Its brick-red color comes from a regular brushing with saltwater. Highly aromatic, its flavor has that caramel note typical of many Scandinavian cheeses.
The footprints of Almnäs Bruk have come a long way, walking through many centuries of history, all the way to Cheese. Who knows where their creativity will take them next?