Swiss Cheese

The Strange Yet Fascinating Story of Swiss Cheese

The wholesome goodness of cheese adds to the nutritional value of any cuisine. Swiss cheese is not only used as a garnish, but also to influence a distinct buttery and nutty taste.
Swiss cheese is a variety produced in the United States of America, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia. In fact, this common name is awarded to the several related varieties that resemble the exquisite Emmental. While some of its varieties are riddled with holes or 'eyes', some are distinct for the nutty and bittersweet taste and yet some others without 'eyes', called 'blinds'. This special variety is formed because of the action of three types of bacteria, streptococcus thermophilus, lactobacillus, and propionibacter. Ultimately, during the production, the latter is converted into lactic acid and releases carbon dioxide gas, the bubbles of which result in the 'eyes'!
The ones with larger eyes are believed to have a more pronounced flavor. This distinct flavor which is experimented by chefs and housewives from all over the world, is the result of longer aging and higher temperatures that the cheese is exposed to. The bacteria and enzymes produce a strong flavor. In the United States of America, the pre-sliced variety is very popular. Moreover, the ones with large eyes have a tendency to come apart. The Baby variety is also very popular in the US. This variety is manufactured by using milk whey instead of water, in order to slow down the bacterial action. This variety not only has smaller holes, but also a mild flavor, especially when made from whole milk.
Another variety is known as Lacy. This variety of US small hole cheese is also a product of low-fat milk. The holes are a result of gassy bacteria. It cannot be made in the absence of bacteria. In the initial stages, the milk is worked upon by starter cultures containing bacteria. These bacteria create lactic acid, an essential component of cheese. While some varieties are made in the presence of specific types of bacteria, some require several different bacteria for the distinct flavor and taste. In this variety, the bacteria required are propionibacter shermani.
These distinctive holes are controlled in size by changing the acidity level, temperature, and curing time of the mixture. It has not only become synonymous with Jerry Mouse, but has also been recently regulated by the Department of Agriculture to monitor the hole-size of domestically produced variety. This step has been taken to deal with the profusion of sliced varieties in the super markets being sold as generic. There are a number of versions that are replicates or copies of the original version. This attempt comes from the increased demand for mass consumption.
It is pale yellow in color. The large scattered holes and slightly nutty flavor are the results of the fermentation process. The two most authentic varieties are Emmental and Gruyére. There are some excellent American varieties too that emulate the original Swiss traditions. The American variety is reasonably priced and made from pasteurized cow's milk. It is marketed in slices and packets of shredded, regular, and low-fat varieties. This variety is aged only for four months and flaunts a very mild flavor because it melts easily. It is a big hit with children, in sandwiches.
The Emmental gets its name from the Emmental Valley where it originated way back in 1293. In fact, it is credited as Switzerland's most prestigious variety. It is pale yellow in color and made from un-pasteurized cow's milk. Emmental has a distinct flavor - slightly nutty and buttery. This variety also melts easily and is excellent in sauces, and as an accompaniment with fruits and nuts. The Gruyére variety differs from Emmental in the fact that it is produced from fatty cow's milk and the process results in a naturally sweetened, nutty, and buttery flavor. Gruyére has a brownish-gold rind and the center is pale yellow. Gruyére is sold by the wedge and has a number of processed imitations in the market.