This is Ziger.
My mother-in-law, Josy, often waxes poetic about the stuff, which is made from whey, a byproduct of cheesemaking.
Here's a quick cheesemaking refresher: add enzyme-y rennet to milk which makes it curdle. The solids (curds), separate from the liquid (whey). The curds are used to make cheese and the whey is then discarded (for a time, cheesemakers used to dump this in lakes and rivers) or used to make other things, like ice cream filler (sorry, frozen dairy dessert filler), bodybuilding fuel, or Josy's fave, Ziger.
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her her cheese and byproduct...
To make Ziger, and also Ricotta and other similar cheeses, acid is added to the liquid whey and the proteins coagulate. Generally Ricotta is softer and creamier, while Ziger has a firmer, crumblier texture and equally mild flavour. Josy loves it best plain, with Gschwellti (boiled potatoes) and a drizzle of Birnenhonig.
I was keen to try Ziger in a recipe though, and was delighted to learn about Malfatti, an Italian dish that uses ricotta to make gnocchi-like dumplings, from this recipe in the Guardian. I also found some Swiss recipes that had tried it with Ziger instead of Ricotta like this recipe in Annabelle and this recipe from the wonderful Swiss food blog Zum Fressn Gern. I was surprised at how easy and delicious the dish was, with a simple drizzle of butter and squeeze of lemon before serving.
Normally you need to ask for Ziger directly from the cheese counter or your local dairy. Sometimes it is listed as Käsereiziger or Bergziger, but don't get it confused with the green Glarner Schabziger, which is something quite different. For those in the neighbourhood, Josy says the best Ziger comes from the Käserei in Unterfrittenbach, which you can buy at the Jakobsmarkt in Zollbrück. A nice article about Ziger (in German) from the Berner Zeitung here.
400 g Ziger
100 g Sbrinz, grated
100 g flour
chopped herbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper
cornmeal for rolling
butter and lemon to serve
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, mix the Ziger, eggs, cheese, flour and seasonings together in a large bowl.
Make the balls:
Scoop out a tablespoon or so of the mixture and and roll it in cornmeal, gently forming it into a ball.
Drop the balls into the boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes, or until they float to the top. You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pot.
To serve, melt some butter and drizzle it over the malfatti, along with a squeeze or two of lemon juice.
- If you don't have Ziger, you could also use Ricotta.
- Sbrinz can be replaced with Pamesan cheese.
- This was enough to feed my hungry husband, my almost one year old, and me, with minimal leftovers (though it would probably stretch to feed three or four people with normal appetites).