Day 23-Emmenthal, Cave Aged

It’s interesting to think of cheese as wealth.  Historically, cheese was a way for farmers to store up their resources for use during leaner times.  Cheese, being made of high quality fat and protein, is a portable form of cow.  Cheese was traditionally given as gifts at celebrations and feasts, and was a commodity of sorts-a real expression of the bounty of the land.  A cheese could also save a family through preserving nourishment for a later date.  Farmers often pooled milk to make large cheeses, which lasted longer than small cheeses in some of the first co-operative food ventures.  Could it be that cheese and cheese making is historically linked to the creation of co-operative living?  I like to think that it does.

An excellent example of this is the cheese, Emmenthal.  Another huge cheese weighing in at 80 pounds per wheel, this took a massive amount of resources to create.  Emmenthal, like most Mountain Cheese was the physical manifestation of a farmer’s resources. It allowed a family or families the ability to hold on to capital for many months until it might be worth more-kind of like a GIC, only in cheese.

Emmenthal, also known as Emmental or Emmentaler is a cheese from Switzerland sometimes known as Swiss cheese in North America,  although “Swiss Cheese” does not always imply Emmenthal, as the name is NOT protected.  This cheese can be made just about anywhere-which would explain its presence (as Swiss Cheese) on my supermarket shelf.

Emmenthal  is a yellow, medium-hard cheese with characteristic Swiss holes, known as “eyes.”  The eyes result from  CO2 bubbles in the cheese made during production.  Three types of bacteria are used in the creation of Emmenthal, the third bacteria, P. freudenreichii feeds on the lactic acid made by the other bacteria, and releases CO2 forming holes (eyes) in the cheese.

The wrapper on my Emmenthal, cave aged states, “aged three months in the dairy, only the very best wheels are selected to then age at least nine more months in the sandstone caves at Kaltbach.” The is a raw milk cow cheese from Switzerland, from the very homeland of all Swiss cheese. As Emmenthal is regularly used in fondue I shall be sampling this cheese both at room temperature, and melted.

My slice of Emmenthal is quite robust looking.  It’s pale yellow with a dark brown rind and only has one eye in it, but it does wink rather charmingly at me this morning. This is a stronger smelling cheese than some of the other mountain cheeses, it has a sharp and cheesey odour, not raunchy, but definately present.  The cheese is firm and shiny looking.

Here goes-first taste (room temperature)…well, I’m not crazy about the texture or the taste, frankly.  The texture is quite pasty and thick-it takes a while to melt on the tongue.  The flavour is mild, but strangely lacks the salt I have come to expect.  It’s not offensive, but really begs for something else, it’s not a solo artist, this cheese.

…and melted-well, this is an improvement, it’s still overly mild for me, this is a super mild, chilled out cheese.  It’s like an introverted wallflower at a dance, its back up against a wall and not making eye contact-which is ironic, as this cheese actually has eyes!   Perhaps if we added garlic, wine and chunks of bread  this would work.  If that’s what you are looking for, then this might be the cheese for you. As for me, I’ll take a pass.

Emmenthal, cave aged, I give you a 3 out of 5 for your insipid mildness-this does include a bonus mark for having an awesome history in shaping western civilization and also being cave aged, which is just cool no matter how you slice it.