Sep 11, 2012

Cheeses of the World - Part Seven
Swiss Cheese

I don't know about you, but when I think about Swiss cheese I envision little cartoon mice hiding in the holes of a block of cheese. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not all Swiss cheese has holes in it, and in fact the term Swiss Cheese is a generic name for several varieties of cheese originally made in Switzerland. You can find Swiss cheese, which is made from cow's milk, in hard, semi hard, extra hard, semi soft, and soft varieties and there are some 450 different kinds of it. I'm only exploring the most common eight. :-)

The Swiss cheese we are most familiar with is actually called Emmentaler or Emmental, and came from the Emme River Valley. It's a pale yellow cheese riddled with holes that are known as "eyes" that are a result of the release of carbon dioxide during the maturation process. Emmental is thought to be Switzerland's oldest cheese, and is one of the largest cheeses in the world, using 262 gallons of cow's milk to make a 200 pound wheel of cheese. It's aged at least 4 to 5 months, and becomes fully mature after 7 to 12 months.

You may also be somewhat familiar with the second most popular variety of Swiss cheese, which is Gruyére. It's a hard cheese that's produced mainly in the French speaking region of Switzerland. It's used mainly in cooking because of its mild taste and it melts quite easily. It's aged from 10 to 12 months and has a brownish rind. It's also a pale yellow cheese, but the holes in it are much smaller than those of the Emmental. It's commonly made into 100 pound wheels and is sold by the wedge.

Sbrinz is the hardest of all Swiss cheeses and is often mistaken for Parmesan cheese. It's thought to be the oldest cheese made in Europe (not just Switzerland) dating back to 70 A.D. To be considered Sbrinz, the cheese must be aged for 18 months, but the full flavour doesn't develop until after 24 to 30 months.

Appenzellar originates in the Appenzell region of Switzerland. It's a semi-hard cheese that is soaked in a brine of herbs with wine or cider vinegar. An estimated 75 dairies make this cheese, each with a different recipe for the brine wash. This straw coloured cheese has a distinctive spicy flavour which changes with the amount of time its aged, anywhere from three to six months.

Schabziger cheese was first manufactured by the monks in Glarus, in the 8th century. Unlike most cheeses, this one is made with skim milk, making it very low in fat. During processing the herb blue fenugreek is added which gives it a pale green colour and a strong flavour. It's pressed into cones for six to eight days and then is aged for two to six months.

Tete de Moine, once known as Bellebay, in honour of the monastery where it was made, is a strong tasting, pungent cheese, the strongest flavoured of all the Swiss Cheeses. It's a firm cheese that starts out as a creamy, straw yellow, darkening as it ages. It's aged from four to six months in one of only nine dairies registered to make it.

Raclette is a light yellow, softer Swiss cheese that is named for the way it is most often prepared. Raclette, the dish, is made by heating the cheese then scraping off the melted part (racler in French). It's then served with small potatoes or spread onto crackers. It takes between three and six months for this cheese to mature into its full, fragrant and creamy texture.

Jarlsberg is actually from Norway, and is often used as a substitute for Emmental. It's a mild, buttery and slightly sweet cheese with a semi-firm yellow interior surround by a yellow wax rind. It is distinguished by medium to large holes and is aged from twelve to fifteen months.

If you'd like to try and make your own Swiss cheese you're a braver soul than I. There seems to be a lot more to the process than with the other cheeses I've explored so far. The best recipe comes from, How to Make Swiss Cheese. Cultures of Health also have a good recipe for making Swiss Cheese. There seems to be a lot of pressing involved.

If you'd rather watch a video, I found this is very interesting video by the Discovery Channel on the making of Swiss Cheese.

And here's another video on making Swiss cheese, right from milking the cow to taking a sample after it's been aged three months. There's no narration, but it's interesting anyway.


Cheesy Breakfast Strata
Four Cheese Pate
Swiss and Cream Cheese Ball
Cheese and Mustard Bread
Bacon and Egg Pudding
Reuben Wraps
Chicken Swiss Cheese Bake
Broccoli and Swiss Cheese Quiche
Zucchini and Swiss Cheese
Swiss Cheese Potatoes
Swiss Cheese Recipes Index
has a plethora of recipes to check out. All Recipes is another good place to look

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