A producer of Gruyère d’Alpage AOP appointed delegate of the IPG

Last November Jean-Claude Pittet, milk producer in Cottens, was appointed delegate of the Interprofession du Gruyère. Henceforth, he becomes part of the fifty representatives of producers, cheese makers and maturers (affineurs) who take important decisions to defend the Gruyère AOP and assure its future in the best conditions possible. “In this position, I represent the producers of the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP.” For many years it’s been said that Mr. Pittet is a man of commitment. He has also been the president of the cheese makers in Cottens for more than twenty years.

17 Feb 2021
Around Le Gruyère AOP
©Aliénor Held

“I gladly explain our work to them; it’s good for people to know that the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP doesn’t just single-handedly arrive on the table.”

Mireille Pittet

Since 1949 the Pittet family have spent their summers in the mountain pastures (alpage) of Amburnex, which belong to the city of Lausanne. From the time Jean-Claude was a child, he adored going to the chalet to lend his uncle a hand. In 1989, in collaboration with his parents, he took over the mountain pasture. Since 2011, from the end of May until the beginning of October, he has gone up there with his wife Mireille and their 80 cows and 150 young cattle, some of which are in boarding. His son Simon, with whom he been in partnership since 2017, stays in Cottens to take care of the farm on the plain.

In 2016, Jean-Claude Pittet was elected Swiss champion in the Swiss Cheese Awards. At this same event, he was proclaimed to have the best Gruyère d’Alpage AOP. It’s important to state that he pays particular attention to every step of work, from milking the cows to storing the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP in the cheese cellar for six weeks. Over the years, he has been able to make improvements to his equipment. Today he boasts two vats, a centrifuge, a steam boiler, and a cheese cellar equipped with a cooling system.

At Amburnex the rhythm of daily life is dictated by the work. While his employees are tending to the cattle and the milking, Mr. Pittet is making the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP. At the beginning of the season, he produces six wheels of cheese each morning. As the weeks pass, this quantity is diminished to only three wheels at the end of the season. He also busies himself with salting, rubbing and turning each cheese by hand. The seasonal production yields approximately 440 wheels of 30 kg. These are matured for five to six weeks in the mountains before being sent to the Fromage Gruyère SA cellars in Bulle for final maturation.

Life for Jean-Claude, Mireille and their 2 or 3 employees is very different at Amburnex, revolving around milking the cows and producing the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP. To ensure things in the mountain pastures go as smoothly as possible, the tasks must be well distributed so that everyone knows their job. “It’s not always easy. Sometimes, some of our employees have never worked on a farm, so we have to train them in Cottens, before the season.”

This lifestyle also appeals to Mireille, his wife. She enjoys receiving hikers who visit their place. “I gladly explain our work to them; it’s good for people to know that the Gruyère d’Alpage AOP doesn’t just single-handedly arrive on the table.” In the future, Mireille and Jean-Claude plan to create a small shop to welcome their visitors.

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