Monday, June 20, 2011

Cheese: Emmentaler or Swiss

Emmentaler or Emmental is a cheese from Switzerland which, among some other cheeses, is known in the U.S. as Swiss cheese. 
It has a taste that is hard to describe, but immediately recognizable, that I am not fond of. Wikipedia describes it as having a "piquant, but not very sharp taste." 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die, of which Emmantaler is one, describes the taste as "sweet, nutty, fruity..., like a less buttery Gruyere." I agree that it is not sharp, but piquant implies heat and spice. It has some spice, but spiciness is not an attribute that really describes it to me and it certainly is not hot. To me sweet, nutty and fruity are all nice attributes that do not grab the essence of the taste. As I tasted and thought, the words that came to me were "sweet and like soft water," which you might assume correctly I am also not fond of. It has an overwhelming taste that distorts and detracts the other sub-tastes which otherwise would be quite good. It is originally from the Emmental region in west central Switzerland, part of the canton of Bern. 
However, unlike some other cheeses that have been protected, Emmentaler is made in other areas such as France, Bavaria and Finland. It is a yellow, medium-hard cheese made out of raw partially-skim cow milk. 
Three kinds of bacteria are used in the cheese-making process: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus and Propionibacterium freudenreichii. In the late stage of production, the characteristic holes, or eyes, are made when P. freudenreichii consumes the lactic acid excreted by the other bacteria and releases carbon dioxide gas which forms the bubbles that make the holes. 
It is aged from 2 to 14 months. There is an Emmentaler Switzerland which is an AOC  (Appelation d'origine controlee) with different age profiles. Classic is aged four months, reserve is aged eight months and Premier Cru is aged 14 months. The Emmentaler I got from Trader Joe's was made in Switzerland, was aged only a little more than three months. 
Generally, the older cheese has larger eyes and more pronounced flavor, because the longer aging time gives the bacteria more time to act. I need to try some older, holier, cheese to see if the "Swiss cheese" taste gets more pronounced with age. With the older cheese, the "piquant" description may be more applicable. Gruyere is another Swiss cheese which differs from Emmentaler in that it uses cows milk with more fat. It also does not have the holes that Emmentaler does, leading me to believe it must not use the P. fredudenreichii bacteria in the production process. Emmentaler and Guyere are often combined for use in fondues. I ate some Gruyere right after eating the Emmentaler and found it to be texturally softer and more pleasing, more mild, less sweet and to my taste, much better. 

1 comment:

  1. Piquant does not necessarily mean spice, especially when talking about cheese.

    having a pleasantly sharp taste or appetizing flavor.