Emmental or Emmentaler is a medium-hard pressed yellow cheese, easily recognizable by its distinctive large holes.
The birthplace of this sort of cheese is the Emme valley, the canton of Bern, from where it bears its name (“emme” – the name of the river and “tal” – from the German word for valley).
There is no information about who started to produce Emmental for the first time and how the idea came up, but there is evidence that in the 13th century this culinary temptation was already being produced in the valley.
In the beginning, the production of Emmental was quite limited, since the production of only one kilogram required 12 liters of milk, which is a large amount of input material.
In 1815, however, the producers began to share the raw material and opened small specialized dairy farms. This allowed them to produce not only more cheese but also to produce it in ever larger shapes (wheels)
Unfortunately, the name Emmental is not trademark protected, and today this cheese variety is produced not only in Switzerland, but also in Germany, Austria, France, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, even in the United States, New Zealand and Canada.
However, in 2006 the Swiss managed to protect the mark Ementaler PDO and today this cheese can be produced only in Switzerland.
Characteristics of Emmental
For the production of this variety of cheese, raw milk from no-silage fed cows is used. The milk used in the production of Emmental must be delivered to the cheese factory no later than 18 hours after milking the cows. Cheese is mainly produced during the summer, because at that time there is enough fresh milk.
Using any kind of additives and GMOs is absolutely prohibited. To produce a cheese wheel of 95 kg, around 1200 liters of raw milk, rennet and bacterial crops are needed.
Shape, size and weight:
The cheese is produced in circular shapes of 80 to 100 cm in diameter, with a height of 16 to 27 cm and a weight of 75 to 120 kg.
The classic holes that distinguish Emmental cheese from all other cheeses are formed during the ripening process. During the natural fermentation, carbon dioxide is released with nowhere to “escape”, so it is deposited in different parts of the cheese. The size of the holes may be from the size of a cherry to the size of a walnut. Interestingly, the fresher the cheese is, the smaller the size of the holes on it, and vice versa.
Emmental’s rind has a natural yellow to golden coloration, the texture is soft and elastic, and the flavor is lightly nutty.
Since this variety of cheese is made from a high quality full-fat cow milk rich in saturated fats and with high biological value, Emmental could not be classified as low-calorie cheese.
In exchange of its high caloric value, however, the cheese is not only tasty, but also useful because it is rich in of phosphorus, calcium, beta carotene, iron, selenium, copper, protein, vitamins of group B, vitamin A.
Emmental is lactose-free!
Nutritional value for 100 grams of Emmental:
- Water – 36 g.
- Proteins – 29 g.
- Fats – 31 g.
- Mineral salts – 4 g.
- Calories – 395 kcal
How is it produced?
Emmental AOC is still produced manually, using traditional methods and original recipes, stored and passed from generation to generation.
“The King of All Cheeses”, as Emmental is called, is subjected to a completely natural process of hardening and ripening.
The first step of the production involves centrifuging the milk to activate the whey, and then the cheese mass is warmed and boiled at 53°C. Then, rennet and propionic bacteria are added, and the mix is left to cool down. The resulting “huge lump of cheese” is cut with special tools in separate wheels, which are then reheated at a temperature of 40-45 degrees.
The following steps include pressing the wheels to remove the whey, soaking it in salt solution and adding spices. This is how the huge cylindrical cheese wheels are made with weight of 70 to 120 kg.
At the last stage of production, the trade mark shall be printed on the side of the shape (wheel) together with the manufacturing authorization number. Producers of the original product thus protect themselves against counterfeiting, and consumers can rest assured that they are buying an original product.
The ready cheese wheels are arranged in warm and humid rooms to ripen and ferment. During the fermentation, Ementaler/Emmental’s characteristic holes are also formed. Thanks to the heat in the maturing rooms, propionic fermentation is induced leading to carbon dioxide release. The rind of the cheese prevents leakage of the gas, which is slowly deposited and distributed to the cheese, forming the characteristic holes.
Depending on the maturing period, Swiss cheese comes in several different types, but the most popular are: “Classic”, “Reserve”, “Extra” and “Premier Gru”.
Emmentaler Switzerland Classic
“Classic” is the most popular type of cheese that is available and consumed worldwide. It ripens and is ready for consumption after 4 months. The rind of this type of cheese is ivory-colored, its interior is yellow, the consistency is dense, its taste is walnutty. You can tell Emmentaler Switzerland Classic of the other types of Emmental by the holes, which due to the shortest maturation period are the smallest.
Emmentaler Switzerland Réserve
This is a cheese that will appeal even to the most demanding gourmet lovers. Like “Classic” and “Réserve”, it is kept in maturing rooms for 4 months, but after these four months it is moved to other premises (cellars) where its ripening lasts for another 4 months. During this time, the cheese crust darkens to dark brown and develops its characteristic, more spicy and intense flavor and aroma.
Emmentaler Switzerland Extra
This cheese has a distinctive spicy aroma and rind that during maturation darkens and is covered with a light patina.
Matured in a cave, this cheese meets the highest demands and is particularly appreciated by cheese lovers. After six months, during which it is stored in rooms at appropriate temperatures for maturing, the cheese is transported in damp caves carved into the cliffs of the Swiss plateau.
Air humidity, cool temperature and the special flora of these caves are ideal for the ripening process. The classic, original Emmentaler acquires the flavor, aroma and characteristic dark rind for at least 12 months of maturing in cave cellars that maintain a constant temperature of 13°C and an air humidity of about 95 percent.
We mentioned a little earlier that Emmental cheese can be produced in other countries, whereas Ementaler is a protected name and can only be produced in Switzerland. Among the most popular types of Emmental produced by other countries are:
- French Emmental – it is produced in smaller wheels than the Swiss Emmental.
- Bavarian Emmental – the cheese is similar to the French, but production is highly industrialized and respectively its qualities are less valuable.
- Finnish Emmental – cheese is mainly for export, similar to the German ( highly industrialized production = not very good quality).
Emmental is widely used in culinary. It is ideal for sandwiches, salads, for sprinkling various dishes. Emmental is also used to prepare the most popular Swiss dish – fondue, but also for soufflé, pasta, sweets and others.
The cheese is perfectly combined with different varieties of red and white wines such as Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Traminer.