Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Emmental (cheese)

Emmental, Emmentaler, Emmenthal, or Emmenthaler is a cheese from Switzerland. It is sometimes known as Swiss cheese in North America, Australia and New Zealand, although Swiss cheese does not always imply Emmental.

The cheese originally comes from the Emme valley in the canton of Bern. Unlike some other cheese varieties, the denomination "Emmental" was not protected ("Emmentaler Switzerland" is, though). Hence, Emmental of other origin, especially from France and Bavaria, is widely available. Even Finland is an exporter of Emmental cheese.

Emmental is a yellow, medium-hard cheese, with characteristic large holes. It has a piquant, but not really sharp taste. Three types of bacteria are used in the production of Emmental: Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus, and Propionibacter shermani. In the late stage of cheese production, P. shermani consumes the lactic acid excreted by the other bacteria, and releases carbon dioxide gas, which slowly forms the bubbles that make holes.
* Emmentaler Switzerland AOC is registered since 2006 as an AOC (Appellation d'origine contrôlée). This “original Emmentaler” has to be aged for a minimum of 4 months. It is produced in a round shape with a natural rind and aged in traditional cellars. The original Emmentaler exists with different age profiles, classic 4 month, reserve 8 month, Premier Cru 14 month. It is produced with raw cow milk adding only natural ingredients (water, salt, natural starters and rennet). Preservatives or ingredients from GMO modified organism are not allowed. Emmental AOC is still produced in small rural dairies.

* Emmentaler Switzerland Premier Cru is a special Emmental aged for 14 months in humid caves. It was the first cheese from Switzerland to win the title World Champion at the Wisconsin (USA) Cheese World Championships in 2006. It was nominated best cheese among over 1,700 competitors. For this achievement it has received a place in the Historic Museum in Bern Switzerland.

It is noteworthy that "Swiss Cheese" not made in Switzerland typically tastes considerably different, primarily because the raw milk to make the cheese should not be transported over long distances, as the vibrations homogenize the milk, and thereby change the outcome.

It features prominently in the cuisine of the United States where it is a standard cheese for use in the preparation of sandwiches.

In cooking, it is often put on top of gratins, dishes which are then put in the oven to let the cheese melt and become golden-brown and crusty. It is also used for fondue in which case it is blended with Gruyere cheese.

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