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Say (Swiss) Cheese!

Say (Swiss) Cheese!

3 reasons why to fall in love with Swiss cheese!

The Swiss can solidly prove how fantastic their cheese is: out of 2,615 cheese varieties from 22 countries in 89 categories, the Swiss captured the first prize in 2014 at the World Championship Cheese Contest and was a runner up in 2016 and 2018. Switzerland produces more than 450 varieties of best Swiss cheese and nearly half the milk produced in the country is turned into cheese. The Swiss make their cheese even more distinctive by giving it hard-to-pronounce names like Sbrinz, Mutschli, Formaggini and Tomme Vaudoise. 
But there is more to Swiss cheese than just variety! It’s a mirror of Swiss quality, of the Swiss attachment to their culture, and on top of distinctive health benefits. 

1. Its a reflection of Swiss culture and quality

best swiss cheese ' introThe quality of the raw milk the Swiss use to make the cheese makes all the difference. In Switzerland hygiene practices are very strict, making un-pasteurised dairy not only common, but also safe.
Behind making this high-quality cheese acknowledged, is a clear Swiss dedication to its production.  Swiss farmers are recognized beyond the scope of food production and being trusted with public safety. They are seen as stewards of the land. Government subsidies and support are given to help keep farming families in rural areas, maintaining the wide spread green pastures that Switzerland is well known for.

Every spring, dairy farmers walk their cows up the Swiss mountainside, encouraging cattle to graze on the grasses and natural pastures. As an outcome, cows trim and fertilize the fields, keeping the Swiss countryside as vibrant and green as a postcard. If a cheese is marked fromage d’alpage/Alpkäse, that indicates it was produced directly on the mountain pastures in the summer months only in the traditional manner. This gives the cheese a character and flavour that’s particular to its region due to the herbs and flowers that the cows have been munching on. 

The food culture of Switzerland is a reflection of its melting pot culture (as is evident by its four main languages and several cantons). You’ll find soft and buttery cheeses as well as hard melting versions, perfect for the national dish, fondue, which is literally is a mix of melted cheese around which family or friends gather.


2. It’s Tasty and Healthy 

best Swiss cheese - cows

The key reason of Swiss cheese “tastiness” is that many Swiss hard cheeses – such as Le Gruyère, Emmentaler, Sbrinz – are made with raw, unpasteurized milk since the enzymes and bacteria they contain produce flavours in the cheese that pasteurized milk cannot achieve, particularly in the maturation process. Pasteurized cheeses – such as mozzarella – therefore have a milder flavour and are typically eaten when ‘fresh’. 

All of the dairy in Switzerland comes from grass-fed animals. The natural herbs and flowers the cows grow on, gives the best Swiss cheese its rich flavour and particular character. More importantly it’s also much higher in two essential fatty acids that protect against heart disease: (CLA) conjugated linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Milk from grass-fed cows has five times more CLA than conventional milk. According to a 2010 study from Harvard School of Public Health, people with higher levels of CLA have a 36 percent lower risk of heart attack than those with the lowest levels. CLA consumption is also linked to protection from oxidative stress and diabetes.

In addition, organic dairy from grass-fed cows also has double the heart-healthy omega-3 fat content as conventional milk, due to the presence of ALA, an essential fatty acid that occurs naturally when cows eat grass. ALA consumption has been shown to lower blood pressure, as well as decrease risk of heart disease and strokes.

Are you lactose intolerant? Some hard Swiss cheeses including Le Gruyère and Emmentaler don’t contain any lactose, since it’s broken down in the production process. Others, including Appenzeller and Raclette de Valais, contain low levels and are well tolerated by some lactose-intolerant people.


3. It’s Original and Diverse

best swiss cheese - different cheeses

Ten best Swiss cheeses carry the AOP label (Appellation d’Origine Protégée), which means the product is entirely made in its region of origin. Among these are Emmentaler, Le Gruyère, L’Etivaz, Raclette de Valais, Tête de Moine and Vacherin Mont-d’Or. Another label, IGP (Indication Geographique Protégée) means that at least one step in the production process must have been carried out in the region of origin.
The top-produced type of Swiss cheese is Le Gruyere, and surprisingly, second is mozzarella , followed by Emmentaler, séré (fromage frais as per Swiss-French ) and Raclette. Around a third of Swiss cheese is exported. Emmentaler – or also known as Emmental – is the most exported Swiss cheese, with Le Gruyere as a runner up. 
best swiss cheese ' gruyere
Hard cheeses including Le Gruyère and Emmentaler are ready to eat after a minimum four months’ maturation period, achieving full maturity after seven to 12 months. Sbrinz is best eaten after two to three years of maturing in the cheese cellar.
The recommended best Swiss cheese types are: 

Appenzeller: a hard cheese produced in the Alps of northern Switzerland. The cheeses are kept in either a wine or cider mixture that’s particular to each producer. The result is a robust cheese that’s rich in aroma and flavor.

Emmental a semi-hard cheese  famous with holes. It has a piquant flavor that isn’t quite sharp. According to Switzerland Cheese Marketing the holes in Emmentaler are made by bacteria which transform the lactose into carbon dioxide and create air pockets. However a 2015 study by Swiss agriculture body Agroscope countered this, saying the holes were caused by tiny bits of hay present in the milk, who knew?

Le Gruyère: a sister to Emmental, but it typically has no holes. It comes from the village of Gruyère a charming medieval town that is definitely worth a visit when in Switzerland. Gruyère can range in texture from creamy to firm. It has a nutty flavor that is more pronounced when aged. It’s great in a grilled cheese sandwich or the dish croquet monsieur and also commonly tops French onion soup.

Raclette perhaps the one cheese that most characterizes Switzerland. This semi-hard cheese is typically shaved with a hot knife and spread on toasted bread or beside small potatoes and pickles. 

Sbrinz is one of the oldest European cheeses. It has an extra-hard texture that is almost like Parmesan cheese. It’s great for grating over pasta dishes and also makes a nice appetizer when served along with antipasti.

Tête de Moine is made in the Jura mountains. The name literally means the “monk’s head” as it was originally produced by monks. The cheese is served in an unusual way — it’s scraped with a tool called a girolle. This knife-like contraption revolves around the wheel of cheese and scrapes ribbons of the pungent and fruity cheese. 

Vacherin comes in two types, Mont d’Or and Fribourgeois. The first one is a soft creamy brie-like cheese that is made in the Jura region. It is produced seasonally and is sold in round wooden boxes. Fribourgeois is a firmer cheese that tastes a lot like Italian fontina. It’s greatly used in fondues.

So next time you are in Switzerland don’t miss tasting several best Swiss cheese types, and take some home also!

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