The art of cheese making is an integral part of Switzerland and its culture, a characteristic of the Swiss is the concern for quality which is reflected perfectly on its cheese. The cheese factories are mostly near farms and cows grazing grass and flowers in the meadows and green plains, and fresh milk is delivered daily for the pleasure of master cheese makers who start preparing and producing valuable cheese as soon as delivery is done since the majority of Swiss cheeses are made from raw milk.
For hundreds of years, cheese was part of the main food thanks to its high nutritional value, since ancient Rome, Switzerland was recognized by its cheese it was called back then “Caseus Helveticus” which means “cheese of Helvetii or cheese of the Swiss”.
The Helvetii know-how who transform the milk production of their herds into cheese is even mentioned in the medieval chronicles.
The quality of cheese depends in part on its refinement. Like vintage wines, cheese wheels require special conditions to reveal all their flavors and powers.
Name of the holes of the cheese
Few cheeses have holes, yet, it is Emmental that is the world reference of cheese with this particularity. Perhaps it is due to “Tom & Jerry” but from our earliest childhood, we associate cheese with a texture marked with holes.
Equipment required in Cheese making
Despite the introduction of technology to increase the quantities produced and to carefully control the evolution of degrees of cooking or moisture levels, the tools needed to make cheese have not changed much for centuries.
Difference between protected designation of origin and controlled designation of origin
There are many ways that cheeses try to stand out and protect themselves, especially when they try to position themselves as exceptional ones. Thus, there is a great deal of ways, often depending on the country, even the regions, to call themselves proudly of origin, to cover the name of registered, protected or organic trademark…
A food product, especially of high quality must be carefully preserved so that it does not deteriorate and remains edible. If our predecessors used salt, nowadays many foods have recourse to updated methods. We can name chemical preservatives, packaging … Traditional cheese as the word suggests is perfectly preserved, at least until it is cut thanks to its rind and salt baths from which it has benefited.
Normally, we need 10 liters of milk to produce a kilo of cheese. The milk is heated to a temperature of 32 degrees inside copper tanks and constantly stirred. After that, we add lactic bacteria and rennet. That is how milk coagulates and cut by a cheese harp to separate the curd of the whey. The whey and cheese are, once again, heated and stirred. Different sizes of curd grains are obtained, the smaller the seeds, the harder the cheese.
The semi-hard cheese is heated for about an hour at 40 – 45 degrees whereas hard cheese is heated to 50 – 55 degrees.
To ensure a good cheese quality we need to have a constant temperature throughout the manufacturing process.
The next step is to transfer the curd into the molds according to the variety of cheese we need to obtain, these molds are upturned many times and the cheese is pressed, the amount of moisture desired in the final product determines the duration of this process.
The brine bath is the final step before refinement. The wheels are immersed therein and absorb a little salt on the surface. Thus, a rind is formed. Hard cheese can spend up to 72 hours in the bath depending on the hardness, while soft cheese only stays for a few hours.
Brine passes its flavor to the cheese. This recipe is one of the best kept secrets of master cheese makers.
Refinement is the final step of the whole manufacturing process. The cheese wheels are placed in constant-temperature and high humidity cellars, they are regularly brushed and upturned, and natural fermentation continues its course under these conditions.
The kind of cheese we need to obtain defines the time of maturation and the quality of cheese is constantly tested. For example, Emmental requires storage at 20 – 23 degrees to enhance the formation of carbon dioxide which forms its famous holes; Gruyère requires a maximum of 12 degrees.