Gruyere cheese is a cooked-pressed cheese with a 45% fat content which is made from raw, whole-fat cow’s milk.
The first evidence of the production of the Gruyere cheese dates back to 1115. Since then, it has been harvested for centuries, mainly in the Alpine pastures and alpine pastures. It received its official name in 1655 after the name of the Gruyere district in which it is produced and which is part of the Swiss canton of Fribourg. In the 18th century, Gruyere’s production reached 2,500-3,000 tonnes and then the French Academy affirmed the word “Gruyere” as a definition of the cheese produced in the same name district.
Later on, at the traditional agricultural fair in Paris in 1856, two participants from Fribourg won gold medals for their “Gruyere” cheeses. Moreover, a member of the jury qualifies them as “the best in the world” and adds “excellent products from the Fribourg cows”.
Nowadays, the production of Gruyere cheese has increased almost 3-4 times; according to statistics, in 2004, 10,597 tonnes of cheese were consumed.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT GRUYERE CHEESE?
400 liters of milk are needed for the production of one cheese wheel “Gruyere” of approximately 35 kg. According to the standard, each wheel of cheese should be of a certain size – from 9.5 to 12 cm in height, 55 to 65 cm in diameter and weighing 25 to 40 kg.
Gruyere cheese is mainly produced in the Swiss cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchatel and Jura but also in some areas of the Bern canton, such as Courtelary, La Neuveville and Moutier.
Since 01.05.2009, the European logo PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or the AOP (abbreviation of the original French name) is mandatory for those agricultural and food products in Europe whose production, processing and extraction takes place in a defined geographical area according to recognized know-how and specific technical standards. The old certification remains valid only for the production of wine.
The PDO is an official symbol of quality and origin and is a yellow and red logo that is awarded by the public authorities to certain products. The presence of a PDO certificate on cheese guarantees to the consumer that all stages of production have taken place within the geographical area defined by the name – from milk production to the ripening process of the cheese.
Gruyere cheese received a PDO (AOP) certificate on 07.05.2013, replacing the formerly controlled designation of origin (CDO).
The specifications state that:
- cows can only be fed with grass or hay without additives and ensilage;
- the milk produced by the farmers must be turned over 2 times a day cheese dairies at a distance no longer than 20 km ;
- the cheese is only produced in a copper barrel, and its reuse for making cheese within 24 hours is unacceptable;
- only raw, unpasteurized milk shall be used for its preparation;
- its mixing in the barrel is done only by a master cheese-maker;
- the ripening of the cheese takes place in humid cellars at a temperature between 12 °C and 18 °C;
- the shelves on which the cheese is ripened are made of unprocessed and unpolished spruce;
- the use of antimicrobial agents or coloring agents for rinds is prohibited; the wheels are processed only with salt and water.
- the ripening process lasts for a minimum of 5 months and can reach up to 16 months.
Depending on the period of ripening and origin, the Gruyere cheese may have several varieties.
- The most common is the semi-salted Gruyere cheese which ripens for almost 8 months, while the salt-cheese Gruyere ripens for 10 months.
- The soft Gruyere cheese has the shortest ripening time – 5 months, and the Gruyere cheese with extra quality has the longest one – 12 months.
- There is also a seasonal Gruyere cheese called Gruyere d’alpage (meaning Gruyere from the high-mountain pastures), which is produced from April-May until October. For its make is used milk from cows that inhabit the high mountain pastures in the summer where they eat eco-friendly grass and herbs at large. The maturing period lasts from 5 to 10 months. The product is truly unique with a specific fine taste.
Gruyere cheese is very much like the Emmental cheese and the two are often confused. The main distinctive features can be found in the cheese structure and weight – the Gruyere cheese has almost no holes and weighs 35 kg on average, whereas Emmental cheese has a lot of holes and the average weight of one wheel is about 70-75 kg.
HOW IS GRUYERE CHEESE MADE?
Raw milk which has not undergone any heat treatment is used for the production of Gruyere cheese. To it, the master cheese-maker adds a special whey-based lactic ferment which is cultivated at the dairy. When it reaches a certain stage of ripening, the cheese-maker also adds in a special calf rennet (a natural ingredient that is extracted from the stomach of young calves). Due to the enzymes contained in it, milk coagulation is induced.
With the help of a special machine equipped with large knives, the rennet is slowly mixed at a cold temperature in the cellar, so that the mixture can be divided into small granules of the size of wheat grains.
Then it is gradually proceeded to warming up of the granule mass and whey at about 55 °C for 40–45 minutes. The cheese is pulled out and the rennet is drained and packed into molds which are then pressed for several hours under a weight of between 300 and 900 kg. An identification number, date of manufacture and the own brand of the cheese dairy are affixed to each wheel. After 20 hours of pressing, Gruyere cheese stays in 20% saline solution for 24 hours.
During the first ten days of ripening, the wheels are turned and brushed daily with salt water. Over the next three months, treatment with slightly salted water is done twice a week, and then once a week until they are put for sale.
Treatment with salt water allows to keep the rind undamaged, which is by itself a guarantee for a good, healthy cheese.
USE OF GRUYERE CHEESE
In the composition of any traditional cheese plate there is invariably a place for Gruyere cheese.
In Switzerland, it is traditionally consumed with a slice of bread, for example, or in a sandwich with mustard or butter. Also, it is often combined with boiled potatoes in natural crust, served with a green salad.
There are many ways to incorporate Gruyere in different cooking recipes: in souffles, vegetable au gratins, salads, soups, tarts, recipes with puff pastry and steamed dough, schnitzels, etc.
The unique Gruyere cheese, however, takes the first place in the preparation of the Swiss Fondue.
HEALTHY AND DELICIOUS
Gruyere cheese has the following nutritional characteristics:
100 g of cheese contains 36 g of water, 29.81 g of proteins, 32 g of milk fat, 900 mg of calcium, 600 mg of phosphorus, 1.4 g of salt. In terms of energy, the intake of 100 g of product carries 413 calories, of which the predominant part is fat – 32.34 g and 0.36 g of carbohydrates.
Gruyere cheese is extremely rich in calcium. It is suitable for everyone but is not recommended for people who follow a non-salty diet or have high cholesterol and overweight.