The wooden barrels in which it used to be transported gave this mighty cheese its name
The people from central Switzerland demonstrated a sense for business very early on. Already during the Middle Age they migrated over the Alps down to Italy in order to sell their cattle. And a certain cheese called Spalen.
It was not an easy task to bring the Spalen to Italy. Already back then the cheese was larger in size than most, very compact and heavy. But it was well worth to pack it into wood barrels and on mules’ or cows’ backs. Especially the northern Italians absolutely loved the Spalen and so it brought good money, sometimes a little free wine and - in the best case - the sale of a cow.
Over time, more convenient ways of travel made the tedious, several days long trips unnecessary. The Spalen slowly mutated into the Sbrinz. Sbrinz was nominated an AOP cheese. And people tended to forget the Spalen. Almost. - Nowadays young Sbrinz is called Spalen, Sbrinz that has not reached the maturing age of eleven months yet. At this point, the cheese gets its first inspection, and from then on has to be called Sbrinz AOP.
Spalen is very traditional in the Nid- and Obwalden cantons, although technically it can be produced where ever Sbrinz can. Spalen is shaped like a tall drum and can weigh anywhere from 50 to 80 pounds. Its rind is fine and oily, the paste hard with an elasticity and no single hole. Crafted of raw and whole cow milk, it tastes of sweet cream, grasses and milk. And even though the cheese is very firm, it has a smooth and charming texture.
Not only were they good in doing business, these central Swiss, they also were and still are great cheese producers.