Gruyère: The Only Thing the Swiss Really Care About

Gruyère is one of the most famous original Swiss cheeses and it is highly prized in fondues. It has a rich history that is as rich and nutty as its flavor. In fact, it is so good and fascinating that countries even went to war over it. If you’re curious about its history, then let’s know more about the Gruyère cheese.




History of Gruyère Cheese

Gruyère cheese was developed by Medieval peasants as a means of survival. It was first made in the mountainous town of Gruyeres, Switzerland, making it Swiss cheese by its geographical origins. But since the town was near to the Franco-Swiss border, there were many similar varieties of cheese such as Beaufort and Comte, which were made in France but still fall under the umbrella term of Gruyere.

To make things more complicated, there was also another variety of Gruyère cheese that originated on the Austrian side of the Alps which is very similar in taste, color, and texture. But no matter where it really originated, there’s no doubt that Gruyère cheese is nothing short of spectacularly delicious.

The Gruyere region has been making their namesake cheese since the early 12th century. The people in the area during that time discovered a way to produce the cheese using the excess milk that was produced by cows. Eventually, there were able to sell their cheese in France and Italy.

In the 17th century, the regional name of the cheese was officially recognized and around the same time, the exportation of Gruyère cheese began to take off. When its popularity began to grow, the concern about its protection of origin also began to take root. But it was in 1762 when its origin entered into the dictionary of the Academie Francaise.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people from the town of Fribourg, Switzerland immigrated to the Gruyere region and their movement extended the geographic production zone of Gruyère cheese to neighbor villages such as Jura, Vaud, Neuchatel, and some places in France. But during these times, there was no trade protection in place and Gruyère cheese was often imitated. It was only by the mid-19th century when the recognition of origin began.

There were discussions that took place about Gruyère cheese that took place in Madrid in 1891, in Paris in 1926, and in Rome in 1930. These meetings resulted in an agreement to protect the denominations of goods and their origins. But it was only in 2001 when Gruyère cheese was given the “Controlled Designation of Origin” protection. This regulates the methods of locations of the production of Gruyère cheese in Switzerland. In 2011, it received the same designation for Europe.

Aside from its rich history, there were also some legends and controversies associated with Gruyère cheese. One of those is the hole controversy. It’s because based on French agricultural law, the French-style Gruyère cheese should have holes in it. But the Swiss varieties of it does not have any hole present.

There was also a legend that states, back in 161 AD, Emperor Antonin the Pious dies of indigestion because he ate too much Gruyère cheese.

How to Make Gruyère Cheese

To make Gruyère cheese, the first step is to heat the raw cow’s milk to 93 degrees F, then add liquid rennet for curding. The resulting curd is cut into small pieces, releasing whey while being stirred. After that, the curd is cooked at 110 degrees F and quickly raised to 130 degrees F. When the pieces become shriveled, it’s time to place the curd in molds for pressing.

Then, the cheese is salted in brine for 8 days. After salting, it is ripened for two months at room temperature. There’s also a quick method where it only takes 10 days at 50 degrees F. The curing of Gruyère cheese lasts from 3 months to 10 months. The longer you cure the cheese, the better it will become.

Characteristics of Gruyère Cheese

Gruyère cheese is a traditional, creamy, unpasteurized, semi-soft cheese. It has a natural, rusty brown, and hard rind which is dry and pitted with tiny holes. The cheese has a darker yellow color compared to the Emmental cheese, but its texture is denser and compact. It also uses a cow’s milk which has more fat and which sweetens the nutty and buttery flavor.

Gruyère cheese is slightly grainy and has complex flavors. It’s because at first, it is fruity but later on, it becomes nutty and earthy. It is made in huge 100-pound wheels and is sold by the wedge.

Gruyère Cheese Pairings

Gruyère cheese melts easily that is why it’s great for gratins. It can also go well with meats and vegetables. Or if you want, you can also serve it as an appetizer or dessert cheese during dinner, parties, and special events.

For drinks, Gruyère cheese is best paired with wines such as Vermentino, Cinsault, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Gruyère cheese indeed has a rich history. But thankfully today, the cheese no longer carries with it so much controversy and we all could simply enjoy it and share with friends and family.