Happy Swiss Cheese Day
Cheese lovers celebrate!
Swiss cheese lovers, today is your day! It is Swiss Cheese Day! I love cheese so it’s fun writing about this day.
Here are some facts about Swiss Cheese: (from https://www.foodandwine.com/how/swiss-cheese-switzerland-guide_
A brief history
Switzerland has been a cheese hub since the Middle Ages and, like many European countries, it has always taken its culinary reputation very seriously. And in many ways, that seriousness has actually hindered its international appeal. A heavily government-subsidized organization called the Swiss Cheese Union enjoyed complete control over both production and export throughout much of the industrialized 20th century, dictating in no uncertain terms exactly how, where, and when Switzerland’s cheeses could be made. In the name of economic virility, the Union threw practically all of its weight behind just three top-sellers out of the country’s many beloved heritage styles — earthy, nutty Gruyère; the fragrant, Parmesan-like Sbrinz, and Emmentaler, better known as “the one with the holes.” (Appenzeller, a semi-hard cheese used in fondue, would join the pack later.) This effectively rendered the unapproved varieties obsolete and gave the rest of the world a very narrow understanding of Swiss cheesemaking.
That was until 1999 when the mighty Swiss Cheese Union dissolved amid a rash of corruption allegations. And while the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) continues to closely monitor the production and distribution of 12 traditional “name-controlled” styles, today’s cheesemakers are free to experiment with new techniques and recipes. The resulting marketplace is larger and more diverse but, according to Konrad Heusser, Managing Owner of Swiss exporter Mundig Cheese, it’s hasn’t strayed too far from its roots.
“The base of all cheeses in Switzerland are the traditional AOP cheeses, whether hard, semi-hard, or soft,” he notes. “Some dairies still produce one AOP cheese and a new creation, others are independent and thus commercially responsible from A to Z.”
“The vast majority of cheeses made in Switzerland are made of cow’s milk,” explains Thorpe. “It’s really unusual to find a sheep’s or goat’s milk cheese — they exist, but very, very nominally. You tend to find goats and sheep in more marginal climates, places that are really hot and dry, places that don’t grow grass so well. Switzerland’s landscape and climate are really conducive to cows.”
Dairy farming is obviously central to cheese production, and, much like terroir in wine, Switzerland’s distinct topographical makeup plays a huge role in every step of the cheesemaking process.
“Swiss milk used for making cheese derives from farms with small herds, 10 to 40 cows,” says Heusser. “Unlike other places, cows are treated according to the ‘Raus-program,’ which means that the animals have to be outside in summer for 26 days per month [and] at least 13 days per month in winter. The higher up and the more hilly the location of a farm, the more traditional the grass is. There’s no way to plow the ground and grow new seeds.”
Most of the Swiss cheese exported to the States comes from these mountainous grasslands and falls under the Alpine category. Thorpe describes this family as “large-format wheels of aged cow’s milk cheese that are dense and firm but still pliable and elastic in texture.” Flavors lean more nutty than salty, with bits of roastiness and sweet milk.
Softer cheeses are also on order, but they’re tougher to come by stateside.
“The other tradition that goes hand-in-hand with Alpine is soft, salt water-washed cheeses, though they can be difficult to find here,” Thorpe explains. “Many of them are made of raw or unpasteurized milk, and because they’re soft and creamy and young, they’re not aged. Raw milk cheeses aged under 60 days are illegal to export to the US. When you go to Switzerland, you see many more choices than you would here
Swiss Cheese goes great with crackers. Not all crackers, however. Avoid saltines. I would go with Wheat Thins, Toastees, Shredded Crackers, etc. Those kinds will bring out the zest in the Swiss Cheese. It’s also great for sandwiches like BLTs, Ham, and Turkey. Use Wheat bread or Butter bread.