Alpine Pasture Stories: Außermelang Alm in Wattener Lizum
Visiting the Außermelang Alm hut in the Tux Alps, chances are that you will carry more weight out than in. After all, the alpine dairy here sells finest homemade specialties. Produced on site, the handmade Wattental Alpine Cheese is one of the most sought-after alpine cheeses and has won praise and awards from foodies and chefs alike. And the “Tirol Alpine Pasture Pig” thrives here, too.
The historic word Lizum means “Alpine pastures and meadows at the head of the valley” in local dialect. However, this particular head of the valley is not only an end, but also a beginning. Here at an elevation of 1,850 metres above sea level, where the alpine pastures are dotted with the rustic huts of belonging to the tiny village of Außermelang, jagged and lofty peaks give way to uninterrupted panoramic views. And although you have already walked all the way up from Walchen for 1.5 hours, it feels as if your day is just beginning.
Thomas and Margit Klingler have been running the Alpine dairy at Außermelang Alm since 2000. Milk is provided by six farmers, who have their cattle grazing the nearby pastures and by one farmer from neighbouring Innermelang Alm. ©
If you arrive here in the morning, you might wonder about the rustic smell of a wood fire. It’s a warm and sunny summer day, so why would anyone fire up a wood stove? Well, it’s cheesemaker Ludwig Klingler and Thomas, his son. When it comes to the art of cheesemaking, they things traditional. While most alpine dairies nowadays use electricity or gas to heat the milk vat, these two artisans are committed to uphold the operation to its original standards. Which includes a wood fire. “They always used to heat with a wood fire and we want to keep up with this tradition. We are dedicated to perfecting those old recipes and methods of production as they give the cheese just the right flavour,” they say.
The Wood Fire Heats the Milk Vat
As a young boy, Ludwig Klingler fell in love with the life at the hut. After finishing school he decided to make his passion his profession and became a dairyman. He managed the cooperative dairy in Terfens for many years. For a short time he also worked at an industrial dairy, where he mainly had to operate machines. Which isn’t exactly the greatest desire of a passionate nature lover—instead, he wants to smell the rain, to feel the wind, to see the cattle grazing. And that is why in 1999 he became an alpine dairyman at Außermelang Alm on the Wattenberg Mountain. The hut had resumed cheesemaking in 1996; in the years prior to this they delivered the milk to the Lizumer Alm hut.
Since 2000, the Klingler family has run of the alpine dairy at Außermelang Alm. Milk is provided by six farmers who graze their cattle on the nearby pastures and by one farmer from neighbouring Innermelang Alm. Today it is Ludwig's son, Thomas Klingler, who has taken over the operation of the dairy, yet he is still fully supported by his father, who has great knowledge, experience and skills in cheesemaking. Ludwig simply loves seeing shelves stacked with rows and rows of cheese in the maturing cellar of the Alpine dairy—and continues to do so.
It's Quality Rather than Quantity that Matters
Ludwig’s wife Margit is a teacher but also has a passion for life at the hut. During the summer holidays she runs the small snack bar where they serve delicious platters with fresh and handmade dairy produce and bread. And most guests want to buy some butter and cheese afterwards. Lucky ones can take some of the delights home with them—often, the demand is bigger than the supply. All in all, 100,000 kilos (litres) of milk are made into cheese each summer at Außermelang, along with roughly 1,200 kilos of butter. These figures are quite remarkable, yet they could sell more. The tiny milk room at the premises, however, is not suitable for any larger-scale production—and the Klingler family like to keep things as they are. They are convinced that it is quality rather than quantity that matters. And together with the nine owners of Außermelang they are pleased that so many people love their dairy produce.
All in all, 100,000 kilograms (liters) of milk are made into cheese each summer at Außermelang, along with roughly 1,200 kilograms of butter. ©
Tender Pork from Happy Pigs
“This is a wonderful place to be and live.” That’s what I think as I continue wandering towards the supper hut, which sits somewhat above the village at an elevation of 2,000 metres. I am surrounded by peace and quiet, but all of a suddenly the mountains come alive with the sound of…oinks. How come? Do the cows speak a different language up here? No, it’s the pigs grunting and squeaking their way towards me!
A few years ago, they started keeping pigs at Außermelang. Much sought-after, the meat of the “Tirol Alpine Pasture Pig” is tender, juicy and full of flavour. The dairy whey is now used to feed the pigs. The pigsty is located somewhat away from the village, so the curly-tailed friends can enjoy their summer up here in peace. The pigs are thriving in their high altitude living arrangement. Lucky things.
A few years ago, they started keeping pigs at Außermelang. Much sought-after, the meat of the “Tirol Alpine Pasture Pig” is tender, juicy and full of flavour. ©
My daypack is filled with tasty alpine cheese, but what about the wonderful pork? Well, this meat is available at all branches of Hörtnagl. You won’t find more blissful pigs than the breeds roaming around Außermelang. You won’t find better pork, either. And yes, there is a connection!