Hirtenkäse, or "herder's cheese", is a distinctive cow's milk cheese made in the Allgäu area of Southern Germany.
Traditionally, cow herders bring their cows from the Alps into Allgäu each fall in mid-September. September 18 typically "marks the official start of the Almabtrieb, or descent, a day celebrated with a festival ...." Hirtenkäse is made from the milk from these cows. It is usually aged eight months.
This cheese is "golden" and "Buttery yellow in color...."
Its texture and taste are "rustic, savory and firm textured... with a rugged, earthy aroma."
It has been compared to other hard cheeses of Europe:
In texture and flavor, the 14-pound cheese resembles a cross between Parmigiano-Reggiano and aged Gouda, with a firm golden interior and aromas of butterscotch and orange peel. ... Even at eight months, the cheese has developed some of the crunchy protein crystals found in Parmigiano-Reggiano. But additional aging makes the cheese creamier, not harder and dryer. It has a waxy texture - it even smells waxy - but it isn't crumbly like Parmigiano-Reggiano or firm enough to grate. The flavor is concentrated, with the cooked-milk sweetness of a caramel.
—Janet Fletcher, San Francisco Chronicle
Another gourmand wrote:
This is a dense-bodied, medium-aged mountain cheese with a firm texture that is easily shaved, shredded or chunked and served in any dish calling for asiago, parmesan, or even aged Swiss. The flavor is reminiscent of all three, yet distinctive.
Hirtenkäse's nutty, earthy flavors can be complimented or contrasted.
A reviewer at the San Francisco Chronicle prefers complimenting the cheese, writing, "I want a nutty, slightly sweet wine with it, such as an oloroso sherry or a Madeira." Barbara Adams suggested the aromatic gewürztraminer wine. She also suggests "a variety of fruits (dried tropical fruits like pineapple, mango, coconut and papaya), toasted hazelnuts, and butter crackers such Bretons, Club and Ritz."
iGourmet suggests contrasting the cheese:
Hirtenkase [sic] is wonderful with German whole grain breads, fresh and dried fruits, like apples and figs. Excellent also when coarsely grated over roasted potatoes, mixed into hot pasta with chucks of ripe tomatoes, shaved over a crisp salad. Enjoy Hritenkase [sic] with a glass of wheat beer like a Hefeweizen, or a full bodied red wine.
Like the bacon-and-chicken liver rumaki, this cheese can be combined with other foods in interesting ways to mix salty and savory flavors.