A brace of 142-year-old cheeses, preserved in the cellar of a Swiss alpine village, are still edible claims their owner. The collector told the Swiss news agency that the 1875 vintage cheese wheels had been given to his grandmother as a gift.
“They have survived everything,” said Jean-Jacques Zufferey, who lives in Grimentz in the French speaking canton of Valais. “Dust mites, rodents and heat waves.”
His day job is head of the livestock department at the cantonal authority, but Zufferey also has an unusual passion – he collects old and rare cheeses. He currently has 72 specimens in his cellar, which also includes one from 1944, and he plans to add more.
“Even if some wealthy eccentric is prepared to pay a lot of money, I would never sell my collection,” he said in an interview with the Swiss news agency. Zufferey assumes that his grandmother simply forgot about her cheeses and they lay in peace in the cellar until his father, Jean-Jacques, discovered them several years ago.
The 1875 vintage cheeses still have some way to go before being declared as the world’s oldest. In 2014, the remains of a 3,800-year-old cheese were found among mummified bodies unearthed in China. Last year, Swedish divers claimed to have found a cheese aged 340 years in a sunken shipwreck.
There appears to be no reliable records that date the world’s oldest edible cheese, but Zufferey is adamant that his would be strong contenders for the title.
Three years ago, samples were sent to the Swiss Centre for Agricultural Research in canton Bern, which determined that they contain no harmful bacteria.