Remember the Swiss Cheeses from your youth? Those rubbery, mostly bland, hole-y slices of cheese your Dad loved to put on his sandwiches, probably with deli select ham, probably with pickles, and definitely with some all-too-spicy mustard? Well this Gruyere ain’t your daddy’s Swiss Cheese.
For 75 years following World War I, the Swiss Cheese Union was a government organization that actively discouraged dairy farmers from making anything but the most traditional cheese, Emmental. At one point, there were 800 producers all making nothing but Emmental – Only the Swiss could be so disciplined as to have a law like that.
The Union (Schweizerische Käse-Union) was closed down in the late 1990s, which caused a seismic shift in Switzerland’s cheese landscape. Michel Beroud, a talented cheese maker in Rougemont, near Gstaad, refers to the post-deregulation period as “après la liberation.” Post-liberation indeed. Since then, cheese-making in Switzerland has gained notoriety with the resurgence of old methods and a keen focus on the aging process. The art of Swiss cheeses, thankfully, is making a bold comeback in this century.
The aging of cheese is perhaps one of the more important processes in all of the cheese-making process. Responsible for many of the nuances in flavor and texture, “affineur” is the title given to one who ages cheeses. The affineur will often hand-select cheeses and age the wheels in the most perfect conditions possible for that specific batch. The affineur will temper the humidity and temperature as they see fit, and the affineur may brush or rotate or wash the wheels if need be. The affineur deems when a cheese is ready to be consumed. Despite what you may think, the task of aging cheese is a great deal more laborious than it seems.
Our Gruyere is proudly aged by master affineur Rolf Beeler in Swiss Alp caves for at least 16 months, and is a savory, sweet, and intensely nutty cheese. Rolf Beeler has been called the great Cheese Pope, which in Switzerland, is no small nomenclature. His Gruyere, coming to our shop after a 2-year aging process, is great over onion soups and in quiche, or let’s be real: it’s pretty amazing just sliced on a cheese platter.
The wheel we received last week was 73.41 pounds – the average weight of a 5th grade student. And as the pictures attest, the one process that might come close to being as laborious as aging cheese, is cutting open the cheese.
Come by the shop and get a taste of the Gruyere for yourself. At Righteous Cheese, we sell our 2-year age Rolf Beeler Gruyere for $29/lb.