Ziger is a fresh cheese from Switzerland made from whey. Ziger is comparable to Italian ricotta. In the production of Ziger is used the whey that is produced in the production of Sbrinz, Gruyère, Emmental and other Swiss cheeses.
Ziger used to be a poor man's food, made from the "waste product" whey. The poor Swiss alpine dairymen and mountain farmers made large wheels of cheese from the milk of their cows. They stored and ripened this cheese, sometimes for months. They ate the finished cheese themselves in autumn and winter or took it to the market and sold it there to supplement their meager income. In part, their cheese also served to pay the rent, tithes and taxes to the monasteries and rich lords whose land they farmed. From the easily perishable whey they produced Ziger throughout the year. They ate it fresh, as it could only be kept for a few days. For many centuries, Ziger was the food of the poor peasants in the countryside and on the mountain pastures, and was only slightly respected by the rich, who could afford cheese, meat and other foodstuffs.
It was only when low-fat foods were sought out as part of the calorie-conscious diet that the mild whey cream cheese gained in reputation. Ziger contains a lot of protein, few carbohydrates and hardly any fat. It is therefore suitable for a calorie-conscious, high-protein diet. Since whey proteins are easily digestible, the fresh cheese is also suitable as a restorative diet after illness.
Fresh Ziger is a white to ivory colored fresh cheese with a sliceable and spreadable consistency. The cheese taste is fine and mild and slightly acidic. Like ricotta, Ziger can be eaten fresh or used to fill tortellini or to enhance soups and sauces. In central Switzerland, traditional Zigerkrapfen (sweet, usually triangular or semicircular doughnuts filled with Ziger, almonds and raisins, baked in deep fat) or Zigerkugeln (like Zigerkrapfen but spherical in shape) are baked at carnival time. In the Rottal, a region in the canton of Lucerne, there is a speciality called "Rottaler Zigerchrosi", which is Ziger mixed with soaked and chopped dried pears. Zigerchrosi is sweetened with pear honey and flavored with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Zigerchrosi is suitable as a spread as well as with cheese and as an aperitif.