Saturday, June 30, 2018

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Swiss Gruyere Cheese

     I realized I hadn't discussed a cheese for several months, so I decided to rectify that.  Happily, my local Shop-Rite grocery happened to have a couple of examples that I haven't tried yet.  Today it'll be gruyere cheese, from Switzerland.
     Gruyere originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchatel, Jura, and Bern, Switzerland.  It's named after a town in Fribourg.  The history is a little vague.  Most websites didn't give a date, much less an inventor(s).  But a couple claimed it was developed in the 12th century A.D., or others even more specifically to 1125.  (More on this later.)
     Conversely, the method for making it is well documented, and very specific.  Raw cow's milk is first heated to 34 degrees C (or 93 degrees Fahrenheit) in a copper vat, and curdled by adding liquid rennet.  The resulting curds are then sliced into small pieces and stirred, which produces some whey.  This is then reheated at 43 degrees C (109 degrees F) and then the temperature is rapidly raised to 54 degrees C (or 129 degrees F).  The whey is then strained, and it and the curds are put into pressing molds.  The result is then salted with brine, and then, "smeared with bacteria," which is a very appetizing quote.  After two months aging in regular room temperature, it's then put into a specialized place for its ultimate maturing.  Ideally this is a natural cave, but other places with a precise temperature of 13-14 degrees C (55-57 degrees F) and a humidity of 94-98% are acceptable, too.  This final aging is between 3-10 months.  It's a hard yellow cheese.  Some consumers categorize it as being sweet but slightly salty and nutty when younger, and "assertive, earthy, and complex when mature."  (I love this last quote--it reminds me of the more pretentious, wordy descriptions of wine, like something the television characters Frasier and Niles Crane would use.)  Gruyere is known as a particularly diverse cheese.  It's a good melting cheese, as in the traditional Swiss dish of fondue.  It's also useful for baking.  It's a common choice for chicken and veal cordon bleu, French onion soup, and quiches.  It's also good as a table cheese, and in salads.  Although Switzerland has fought hard for a trademark for it, there are several other cheeses that are at least similar.  The Greeks make one called graviera.  The French produce Le Brouere, Comte, and Beaufort.  And the Austrians also make a variety.
     Moving on, gruyere is the only kind to win the Best Cheese Award at the World Cheese Awards four times--in 1992, 2002, 2015, and 2017.  If you're curious, this competition has been going on since 1988.  It was started by the Guild of Fine Foods, a British company.  They also give out Great Taste Awards to other foods and beverages.  I'll list a country score of times won Best Cheese Award, as if this was the Olympics:

     1) 11. England
     2) 8.  France
     3) 4. Switzerland
 Then a bunch of places are tied for fourth, with 1 winner each:  Italy, Holland, Spain, Ireland, Canada, Norway, Germany, Tenerife (one of Spain's Canary Islands).  (Spain's winner, in 2012, was another cheese I posted about, on August 29, 2015--Manchego.)  There's also an International Cheese Awards held annually, near Nantwich, England, since 1897.  I don't know which is the more respected award.  And, alas, I couldn't find a comprehensive list of the Best Cheese of the Year winners for this competition.

Kaltbach le gruyere cheese, distributed by Emmi Roth, U.S.A.  5 ounce (140 g.) serving, cost about $7-8.  Yellowish-white color.  Hard texture.  I had mine plain, cut into bite-sized pieces.  I liked this--it was a bit tart and salty.  My search for a cheese I don't at least think is okay continues.  My father liked it as well.

     Finally, the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius (one of the "Five Good Emperors") allegedly died from indigestion brought on by eating too much gruyere cheese, back in A.D. 161.  Which, of course, is about 1000 years before this cheese was supposedly invented.  Maybe it was another kind of cheese from this same town/region in what's now Switzerland.


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