In my opinion, fall is the best time of the year. The food selection is still plump from the summer and it’s perfectly acceptable to prepare big, savory, heavier dishes. With Thanksgiving less than a month away, we all could use some new ideas on what to bring to the table and impress our friends & family!
Starting Nov 1st, the cheese counter will have a stellar Gruyere available for just $14.99 LB (while supplies last). It’s a younger Gruyere, aged for around 6 months, but still packs a mighty punch with an oniony, savory flavor and an incredibly moist, creamy texture. I have looked at some awesome recipes online using gruyere and some tried and true favorites are Potato Gratin with Gruyere , Gingered Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere and of course the traditional recipe for fondue must always have a healthy helping of our favorite mountain cheese!
So, what exactly makes this, and others, a Mountain Cheese? Obviously, Switzerland is known for its mountains, breath taking glacial peaks and lush alpine meadows. Cheese like Gruyere, Appenzeler and Emmentaler all originated in these areas of Switzerland where the topography crafted the cheeses’ appearance and production, thus creating a genre of cheese referred to as Alpine Cheeses.
Gruyere is known for being a rather large cheese, weighing in at 80lbs ea. There are other big cheeses like Parmigianino and Cheddars but Alpine cheeses are the only ones that are much wider than they are tall. The reason is surprisingly easy to understand. Due to the fact the cheeses were made on higher ground and the only transport was horse drawn wagons, the cheeses needed to be stable and secure for the descent. The wide shape and large weight made it easier to transport the cheese and made them extremely good travelers.
Made using 100% unpasteurized fribourgeois cow’s milk, Gruyere and other alpine cheeses like Comte & beau fort are known for their sweet, nutty flavor. This is a result of cooking the curd, a process which takes place after cutting the curds and then raising the temperature of the vat to 131°F for 40-45 minutes. The process lightly caramelizes the curds, giving the cheese a color similar to butterscotch. Now, why in the world would they go through such an elaborate process?! The answer? SALT (which coincidentally is a phenomenal book ).
Again, being that these cheeses are made high up in the mountains (see picture) it makes one think twice about what is needed and what isn’t, especially if that means lugging tons of salt up steep terrain. Salt is used heavily in cheese making; after all, part of cheese making is curing the cheese, much like a country ham or prosciutto. Salt rids the cheese of excess moisture and deters bad molds, bacteria and other critters from ruining the yummy, fermented milk. So rather than applying copious amounts of salt, the cheese makers developed another method of releasing more moisture while still keeping the cheese in beautiful form, they cooked the curd.
It seems so logical when one has all the pieces of the puzzle together. This unique style of cheese is now made worldwide from South Africa to Wisconsin making it just as popular as other styles such as cheddar and Parmesan (after all there is only one Parmigiano.)
Stop by the counter and say hello,