A cow nibbles on the ear of another one
Jasmin Faust

A cheesy trip through the Black Forest

Jasmin Faust

The Black Forest is one of the most popular hiking and holiday regions in Germany. But it is also home to some very traditional cheese productions. Our reporter Jasmin made a trip to the south in search of the cheese secrets of the Black Forest

Black Forest ham, Black Forest gateau, Black Forest trout. In the Black Forest, regionality is even built into the culinary name. But it’s not just the locals whose mouths are watering when it comes to less regional delicacies such as Maultaschen, Flädlesuppe or Käsespätzle.

Speaking of cheese

Admittedly: At first glance, cheese is not the first thing that pops into my head when I think of the Black Forest. I would rather be thinking of the Allgäu. However, cheese production in the Black Forest is nothing new. Cheese was already being made from cow’s and goat’s milk on many farms in the Middle Ages. But a lot has happened here since then. Even in the Black Forest. Today, cheese is no longer just food, it is a pleasure and, for many, a bit of a lifestyle. It appeals to all the olfactory and taste buds. For better or for worse. It divides minds and unites halves of bread.

A hill with two typical Black Forest houses, with trees behind them
Jasmin Faust

And yet, the Middle Ages are over, long live the Black Forest cheese traditions! Again. For a long time, they were almost forgotten. But just like tiresome fashion trends, everything comes back. Fortunately here, I would say. Because cheese is always a good idea. At least I think so.

Treasure hunt at the Peterle Hof

And not just me. Some cheese producers in the Southern Black Forest Nature Park thought so too and joined forces to create a cheese route. And this is more than a dream come true for lactose fans. Because knowledge, passion and love are at play here. The result is cheesy specialties for every taste or body. Bodies? Yes, more on that later. The start of my tour on the creamy to tangy cheese route is the Peterle Hof in Baiersbronn, more precisely in the idyllic Murg Valley on the edge of the Black Forest. This is where goat farmer Michael Peterle found his home after a stint in Alsace. He has been running the farm together with his wife Katja since 1993. They have lots of goats and chickens and everything that goes with it.

Some goats walk across a meadow towards the viewer
Jasmin Faust

A lot of work in the first place, because the Peterle farm is a one-man-and-one-woman operation. Around 40 goats provide the milk for the farm’s treasure. And this treasure is quite delicious, namely goat’s cheese with dost. The “Baiersbronner Schatz” from Peterle Hof varies in flavor from creamy and mild to firm and spicy, depending on how long it ages. “The aroma of the cheese always reminds me a little of a summer’s day in the Black Forest, when the meadows are in bloom and I walk past a warm sandstone wall at the edge of the forest,” says Michael with a smile. Perhaps that is one of the most beautiful quotes that could describe a cheese. If you want to go straight to Baiersbronn now, this Baiersbronn treasure is only available from May to October.

A farmer with a bucket in his hand is surrounded by a few goats.
Jasmin Faust

From Switzerland to the Black Forest

I linger over the taste of the goat’s cheese while I’m on my way to the next stop. It’s off to Conni’s Käsemanufaktur at the Schwenkenhof farm in Lossburg. Cornelia ‘Conni’ Reich impresses me at first glance. She tells her story calmly and with concentration, but keeps an eye on everything that is happening on her farm. She doesn’t really have time to explain cheesemaking to non-experts because the cows have to be milked. But she doesn’t lose her cool.

Conni learned how to make cheese in the Swiss mountains and then brought it to the Black Forest. “If I’m in the Black Forest, I have to make something Black Forest,” she said to herself and decided to make cheese. She gets the milk for this from her 120 cows. The handmade delicacy is refined with seasonal herbs and spices from organic sources. And her flower cheese looks just like it tastes: wonderful!

The entrance to the farm store of Conni's cheese factory
Jasmin Faust

Cheese and culture

Conni sells the cheese in her unpackaged store, which offers much more than “just” cheese. The Schwenkenhof is in a secluded location and there is very little infrastructure in the surrounding area. And that’s exactly what makes Conni’s store a shopping hotspot in the region. During my visit, the store was always full. And Conni? She stands behind the counter with a slight smile and slices cheese. And you can see how much she enjoys what she does.

This applies not only to the store, but to the whole farm. Because there is also entertainment at the Schwenkenhof: her “KulturReich” program offers yoga and qigong to rebalance the intestinal tract if the lactose is breaking down too slowly. And in summer, you can nibble on cheese cubes instead of popcorn at the barn cinema. But I opt for the small treehouse-style garden café. Because after all that cheese, I feel a bit like coffee. Or something sweet. Because my other taste buds are starting to feel neglected.

Cornelia Reich makes cheese in her manufactory
Schwarzwald Tourismus

Cleopatra in the Black Forest

To feed my brain instead of my stomach, I’m off to a personal premiere the next day. I’m going to make my first cheese. I don’t have to go to the Swiss mountains to do it, I can just pop into Schönwald in the Black Forest. There you will find the 403-year-old Küferhäusle, where tired hikers are not only given a hearty snack platter to recharge their batteries, but where owner Martin Dengler also teaches people how to make cheese. I am going to make a so-called “Küferella”, a soft cheese in the style of feta. Martin Dengler is a jovial guy with a lot of cheese knowledge. His passion led him from a hobby to a profession and finally to becoming a master cheesemaker in the Allgäu region.

Facade of the Küferhäusle in the Black Forest, part of the Cheese Route
Jasmin Faust

In the cheese workshop, I not only learn exactly what I need to stir in when and where, but also a lot about whey in particular. Formerly an unwanted by-product of production, today it is a healthy all-rounder. You can drink it or bathe in it like Cleopatra. Martin also has some niche knowledge ready for me, which I can use to make smart decisions in future: Cleopatra didn’t bathe in goat’s milk, but in whey. Because whey is rich in proteins, amino acids, minerals and vitamins. After my workshop, I may still be a long way from being a master cheesemaker, but I am holding my own Küferella in my hand. And it even tastes quite good at home. Recipes will be available after the workshop and with my new niche knowledge I’ll sign up for the next pub quiz straight away.

Küferhäusle owner Martin Dengler in front of his store
Martin Dengler has expansive knowledge about cheese | Jasmin Faust

Between cheese and cosmetics

With my fresh cheese in my cool bag, I head on to Hinterzarten to the Ospelehof. The first thing that catches your eye when you arrive is that this is a property that couldn’t be more beautiful in the Black Forest. Wood, low-pitched roofs, large balconies, geraniums and pretty wooden windows. The theme music from the classic German TV show Black Forest Clinic plays softly in the back of my head and my imagination takes a little scenic flight across the meadows. The owners, Martin and Jutta Braun, have made the most of this idyllic potential and, with a great deal of dedication and ingenuity, have diversified the farm, which has been in the family since 1901. Vacation apartments, a farm store and of course … a cheese dairy.

Typical Black Forest roof of the Ospele Hof
Jasmin Faust

The farm does not have its own cattle; the milk for its dairy products such as mountain, semi-hard, soft and fresh cheese is supplied by partner farms. This does not mean that there are no animals on the Ospelehof, but Highland cattle are not there for milking. At Ospelehof, the topic of cheese goes one step further – we remember: Cleopatra. Since 2006, Martin Braun has been producing cosmetics using a high proportion of fresh whey. And these range from creams to bath additives. I realize: cheese makes you happy, whey makes you beautiful. And I go straight to the farm store to browse.

A cosmetic jar containing a product made from whey


Last but not least, I travel to Endingen am Kaiserstuhl – the Tuscany of the Black Forest. The Kaiserstuhl region is considered to be the warmest in Germany. And I feel right at home in this pretty little town. A gentle breeze, pretty houses, narrow alleyways and a cheese gem of a different kind: Fridtjov Bauser’s cheese museum. He not only explains the world of cheese and tells its history, but also gives cheese workshops.

And he does it all with so much wit and charm that everyone immediately realizes that he is not only passionate about cheese, but also knowledgeable and critical about consumption. His tours are a little interactive and definitely entertaining. When I’m not paying attention for a moment, I suddenly find myself holding a piece of dried calf stomach in my hand and am told how it is used to produce natural rennet for making cheese. But don’t worry: it doesn’t feel as disgusting as it sounds.

The front of the cheese dairy museum in Endingen in the Black Forest
Käserei Museum

With my heart full of cheese, I set off on my journey home. At home, I put my homemade Küferella in the fridge with a little pride. As I do so, I notice a fridge magnet that has been with me for a long time: “You must be a romantic to invest yourself, your money and your time in cheese.” Anthony Bourdain once said that. And it’s as if he traveled through the picturesque southern Black Forest to say it.

What else is there to know?

The Southern Black Forest Cheese Route includes a few more establishments. At a total of 16 stations, you can sample all kinds of cheeses and gain a lot of knowledge along the way. And all this in a beautiful setting.

Cheese enjoyment at star level: Tom Merkle is not only an ambassador of enjoyment for the state of Baden-Württemberg, but also serves up unique delicacies made from regional products with a modern twist in his restaurant Pfarrwirtschaft in Endingen. Cheese is also included.