Emmental cheese, made famous by Tex Avery’s “haunted mouse” released on screens in 1941, and then picked up many times, is the world’s symbol of cheese.
Emmental with holes
The origin of these holes comes from the fermentation process where the bacteria generate carbon dioxide bubbles held by the hard rind of the cheese.
This explains why the cheese wheels complete their light fermentation process after cellaring, subject to a late fermentation that is not desired. In this case, the wheels tend not to round slightly upwards and downwards, but to swell, which is to be avoided and is rather an indicator of a poor quality cheese.
These famous holes are related and constitute the identity of the Emmental which also explains why master-refiners use the handle of their probe to tap on the wheel and feel the echo and vibrations. If the cheese is properly refined the echo and sounds are uniform. At the end of these musical games, a sample can be taken by means of a probe. Two holes visible on the cylinder of the probe indicate a good quality Emmental PDO. Less holes or more holes, are signs of a poor cheese or poor milk quality.
Other cheeses made at temperatures other than that of the famous Swiss Emmental, contain more or less liberated carbon dioxide and make a non PDO Emmental.
The latter has various specificities such as its weight of about 80 kg against 105 for the Swiss, a big number of larger holes, and of course different milk. The cheese is softer and tastes sweeter than the original Swiss. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the two countries have holes in their respective cheese wheels. For more confusion of the new cheese lovers: the French Gruyère has holes, while the Swiss does not. Charles Aznavour would say “It is necessary to get rid of all problems. We only live once! I am talking about a time those who are under twenty cannot know.
Origin of the holes?
Depending on the uses, it seems that the holes that are formed by the release of carbon dioxide, originate from certain particles of hay mountain pastures whose fermentation differs from other herbs and flowers that the ruminant eats.