This blog is ruining cheap cheese for me. I can’t walk past the cheese section in a store anymore without taking an excruciatingly long time reading labels, looking at colour and scoffing. We aren’t even a month in-this does not bode well for the future. I made quiche for my family last night and used pre-packaged shredded cheese-I felt shame-and just a little dirty. Do not blog lightly, gentle readers-this can be a life changing endeavour!
With that in mind, I turn my mind to todays’ cheese-Gruyere, cave aged-like yesterday’s Emmenthal-here is a cheese who’s name-at least-I recognize. I can’t think off the top of my head of anything I actually know about Gruyere, I would never had picked it off the shelf, but I do know that the name is familiar. This cheese seems to be the fromagological sibling to yesterday’s Emmenthaler-both of these spent three months aging in the dairy, then 9 months in the caves at Kaltbach. Both are unpasteurized cow cheeses from Switzerland (see, this is why the term “Swiss Cheese” is so silly, the Swiss have multiple cheeses.) What’s the difference?
Gruyere is named after the Gruyere district in Switzerland-it received the AOC designation in 2001. There is apparently some controversy about whether other similar French cheeses could also claim the name Gruyère (French Gruyère style cheeses include Comte and Beaufort). Oh, delicious, my first cheese controversy. Cheeses called Gruyere are now made almost everywhere. Unlike Emmenthaler, the Gruyére name is not protected, thus the market is flooded with cheap imitations, like Louis Vuitton at a swap meet-EATER beware! Gruyere is used for baking, and seems to be one of those cheeses happy to be melted. I should have used it in my quiche last night, it’s also used-along with Emmenthaler in fondue and French onion soup- ah hah, THAT’S where I know this cheese from.
It seems like a Gruyere like cheese has been around for just about ever. A cheese like Gruyere was made in this region as far back as the time of the Celts-the Emperor Antoin-le-Pieux apparently died in 161 AD.from eating too much of this cheese. Holy Hannah! Like all AOC cheeses, there are strict rules about the creation of this cheese (while in Switzerland, God knows what crazy cheese making goes on outside of this AOC region.) The cows can only be fed grass and hay, the milk has to be produced within 20 km of the fromagerie, the mixing vat has to be copper, the shelves in the aging cave has to be unplanned spruce (!!!!) Washing the crust apparently helps distinguish its taste from Emmenthaler (we shall see)-only water and salt are used in the wash. It differs from Emmenthlaer also in that the milk it uses has more fat, which naturally sweetens the cheese-the holes are much smaller and more evenly spaced than those of Emmenthaler-the holes may shrink down to a nearly indiscernible during the aging which is the case in my slice.
My robust looking slice of cave aged Gruyere sits beside me here-there are no eyes in this cheese. It’s very firm looking with a dark rind-I can’t see any spruce slivers, but I suspect they are there. The smell is mild, but very yummy-I WANT to eat this cheese and I shall deny myself no longer.
OK, this cheese rocks. The texture is fascinating-it’s firm, yet melts quickly in the mouth, but there’s this tiny little crunch in this cheese-what in the world could this be? It feels like salt… I have my answer, it’s tyrosine- amino acid clusters that form when a cheese spends a long time aging, these protein chains break down over time, leaving these crunchy deposits behind (that is seriously cool). The charming tyrosine aside, I just love this cheese, it’s sweet and mushroomy and totally addictive, I don’t even want to melt it-I just want to eat it all now, if you tried to take this cheese from me, I would bite you-it would be ugly.
Melted…oh God, it’s great melted too! It’s sweet and oozy and just perfectly salty. Where is the cheese? It’s all gone!
Cave aged Gruyere, you get a 5 out of 5 for rocking my world-if I could give yo an extra mark for introducing me to tyrosine I would.