When talking about cheese, some people think about its color, ask the question about how holes are created, or why there are blue and orange cheeses. The infinite diversity of cheese leads us to the question of “How to make cheese?”
Legend quotes that mice are responsible for holes in the cheese.
This is a question that has always intrigued any cheese lover, the cheese makers themselves as well as the researchers.
Holes and cheese
Until recently, it was thought that this was the result of the release of carbon dioxide by the bacteria during the cheese fermentation, but this was a mere speculation, since the fact that there is only a few big holes remain unexplained. Swiss scientists, a team of researchers at Agroscope, the Bern-based Institute for Food Science, associated with those of the Empa, Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research, have recently discovered that these holes, characteristics of the Swiss Emmental and Appenzeller, are due to the presence of hay particles that are found in the milk when milking cows. These dusts act like “hole seeds” because they form tiny crevices containing air and in which carbon dioxide can accumulate. Where there are no hay particles, the carbon dioxide diffuses gently through the cheese without forming holes. Cheese makers are extremely interested in this discovery since it allows them to control the number of holes in their cheese by controlling the presence of hay particles.
Secrets of manufacture
Made from premium raw milk that comes from cows eating grass and flowers from the plains of the Emmental region in farms near craft cheese shops where the king of cheese is made with care.
The Emmental has pressed and cooked texture. Once the steps of curdling the milk and pressing are done, the cheese wheels are formed. They are immersed in salt water called brine to allow the formation of a rind. The refinement begins then in cellars at a temperature of 20 – 25 degrees. That is when the very specific fermentation begins and under the heat, the bacteria release carbon dioxide inside the dough since the crust is water-repellent, the gas bubbles cannot escape creating the famous holes. This also explains why cheese wheels become more and more curved during refinement because of the pressure in this process.
The holes hold the taste
We will say it over and over again: holes in the cheeses means Emmental, the Swiss Gruyère simply does not have any.
Every single cheese lover likes the Swiss Emmental which is characterized by its big holes the size of a cherry. These holes represent the very identity of the Emmental and will help you recognize whether the cheese is correctly refined.
The refiner uses his little hammer and rings the wheels regularly to check its evolution. He can also take a cylinder from the cheese and if he finds out two or three holes that means that the cheese is well opened and that its development is completed. It is then placed and stored in cold cellar to avoid the formation of new holes.