Switzerland, a small and mountainous country in the heart of Europe, has been producing fine cheeses for millennia.
As far back as Roman times, Swiss merchants were trading their Gruyere and Emmenthal with the Empire and importing Parmigiano Reggiano from Emilia Romagna
While the texture and size of the many Swiss cheeses changed during centuries, the first priority of quality has been consistent.
Today Swiss cheese makers produce over 100 varieties and much of it is consumed locally.
Exports to North America and other European countries have been decreasing over the years due to fierce competition from other countries, and price have been the most effective way to take market share from the impeccable quality of Swiss cheeses.
Federal Swiss regulations prescribe in detail the diet of cows whose milk is destined to cheese makers. Fresh milk is delivered twice daily, and always with the lowest bacteria count.
In this small country there are 1500 cheese manufacturers, all of which are strictly controlled, and must be headed by a federally licensed master cheese maker.
Emmenthaler, the country’s most famous cheese with big holes, is a hard rind, nutty tasting cheese, that weighs approximately 90 kilograms (200 lbs.).
The cheese is cured for tree to foru months and aged for four to 12 months. Processed Emmenthal offers less flavour and a gritty texture.
Gruyere was already famous in 1115 A D. Natural Gruyere is a firm five to 14 month aged cheese with a stronger and deeper flavour than Emmenthal. The wheels weigh 30 – 40 kilograms each.
Processed Gruyere tastes much weaker than Emmenthal.
Appenzeller was already popular in the 11th century, and was first manufactured around 600 A D. This cow’s milk cheese has pea-sized holes, with a semi-soft , delicate and distinct flavour. It is aged four to nine months.
Tete de moine, a three to six month old aged cheese, was first produced in the Bellelay Monastery in Jura. This flavourful and distinct cheese is particualraly suitable as a dessert instead of a pastry, and to finish the last glass of wine.
Vacherin Fribourgoise, Vachering Mont d’Or and Tomme Vaudoise, are other local Swiss cheeses occasionally available in high end cheese stores.
Sbrinz, Saamen, Spalen, Mountain cheese, Petite Suisse, Swiss Tilsiter, goat’s cheese from Graubunden and other fine cheeses are highly recommended cheeses.
Sap sago is a green, hard cheese, used for grating on pastas. It’s spicy, pungent flavour comes from various herbs added. This cylindrical and small cheese is used to impart more flavour to soups and sauces. Many chefs prefer Sap sago to Parmigiano Reggiano for their pasta specialties.
Recedtte cheese is specially produced to melt before an open fire, then scraped off onto a piece of bread. Every Swiss family enjoys this specialty at least once a week.
Swiss daity cattle are pampered. Farmers maintain small herds never exceeding 12 and each animal is given a name.
The cattle in Switzerland date back to prehistoric times when large tracts of Alpine meadows were available for them to graze. Lake dwellers domesticated the bos taurus bra chyceros which was eventually crossbred with bos taurus primogenus that Alleman tribes from southern Germany brought to Switzerland.
Between the this and fifth century, Simmentaler, Swiss brown, black-spotted Fribourg and the Ehringer were bred. Ehringer is a small and obstinate, but particularly well suited to harsh topographic and climatic conditions beast.
Natural Swiss cheeses are available in large North American cities, but more expensive than their processed versions originating in a number of countries.
Once you have tasted the original, you will never eat their imitated versions.