Made in Switzerland: The Best Cheeses
Switzerland produces more than 450 varieties of cheese. The traditions of converting fresh milk have been constantly developing for about 1,000 years. Nowadays, there are more than 1,500 factories that supply cow, goat, and sheep cheeses to local markets and abroad.
Fresh Alpine cow milk is the basis for the majority of Swiss cheeses. However, around 1% of Swiss cheese is produced from sheep and goat milk. Alpine cheese is famous for its naturalness, rich flavor, and delicious taste. The Swiss are proud to use local ingredients for the production of such fine cheese. The Swiss also have a variety of dishes where cheese is not just a side dish, but the main entree. Examples include Raclette and fondue, as well as cheese bombs known as Malakoffs, cheesecakes, etc.
In 1291, monks from the Canton of Valais began producing Raclette, a creamy cheese that melts over an open fire on a special heating plate. The melted part of this creamy cheese is then scraped onto a variety of foods, such as potatoes, breads, or sausages. According to old recipes, Raclette is mainly produced from pasteurized milk, and has a maturation period of about 3 to 6 months. Raclette is known for having an exceptional melting quality, a creamy consistency, a hazelnut, fruity aroma, and a sweet earthy taste. Depending on its age, the taste of this cheese can vary from a nutty to a milky taste.
Raclette is a popular cheese dish to have during cold days, and can be served with pickled onions and pickled gherkins, as well as with boiled potatoes and sausages. Raclette can also be used as an appetizer with light Swiss white wines.
Emmental, or Emmentaler, could be named the king of Swiss cheeses. This type of cheese, which also known as “Real Swiss Cheese”, is light-yellow in color, has a mild nutty taste, a piquant flavor, and a medium-hard texture. Since the 13th century, this type of cheese, which is made from fresh untreated cow’s milk, has been produced in the Emmental Valley (Canton of Bern). Emmental is also known for its famous cherry-size holes that appear during the maturation process, which takes about 4 to 12 months.
This cheese is often used in soups, sandwiches, and snacks, as well as fruit and wine pairings. Emmental is also perfect for fondues, grilled sandwiches, and baked dishes because of its melting qualities.
Gruyère, a slow-maturing cow milk cheese without holes, is appreciated for its unique flavor worldwide. This particular type of semi-hard cheese emits a strong aroma, and has a slightly salty and nutty flavor. It is stored in cellars for about 5 to 12 months, and when aging such cheese, the taste and texture of Gruyère can become more intense over time.
Since the 12th century, this type of cheese has been produced in the countryside around the town of Gruyères (Canton of Fribourg). The old recipes for producing this type of cheese became the basis for modern-day production of Gruyère. Over time, the Cantons of Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Bern, as well as France began producing their own Gruyère.
Gruyère can be used for cooking hot and cold dishes, and is perfect in French onion soups.