A landscape entrenched in meadows and grasslands, the canton of Fribourg serves as the ideal birthplace of Gruyere. A palate of vast complexity, Gruyere enjoys ever evolving nuances. Opening with full-bodied, fruity tones, the flavors slowly journey towards earthy and nutty with a soft finale to finish. Covered by a natural rind, the texture of the body is dense during its youth, becoming flaky and somewhat granular as it ages.
No silage enters the diet of the cows providing the milk. Instead, the alpine cows roam freely on pastures cushioned between freshwater streams and hillsides in the Fribourg Prealps. This natural forage is key to imparting the signature flavors of the Gruyere, making it impossible to replicate fully in other regions.
A cheese plastered in experience and tradition, Gruyere upholds a standard of uninhibited quality, an approach that has helped characterize it through generations.
Endeared for its intricate layers of flavor, the process of making Gruyere calls for expertise in technique combined with experience in instinct.
Unblemished by sileage, wholesome milk from pasture is delivered to local cheese dairies daily. The process is begun by pouring the milk in large copper cauldrons where it is added natural culture and rennet. This encourages coagulation, and eventually creates a firm curd. Rarely seen among other cheeses, the milk is not heated before being curdled, allowing it to maintain its aromatic, full body. After being cut and separated, the curd is let to drain, followed by a close monitoring of the texture. The curd is then poured into its signature molds inscribed with the designation of the cheese. Compressed for 20 hours, with a weight of almost a ton, the wheels are removed from their molds and soaked in brine, making them ready for aging.
During the initial storing, workers tend the cheeses daily for three months, after which they are moved to more humid cellars. Careful brushing and turning prevents any unwanted bacterial growth. At least five months in the cellars are needed for the cheese to don the flavors of the Gruyere cheese, with some spending up to 18 months maturing.
With the milk directly from dairy farm, it is unsaturated and unpasteurized, key to the full-bodied flavor of the Gruyere. No additives or fillers are present, meaning the cheese is completely free of gluten. However, the addition of animal rennet makes it unsuited for vegetarians.
Though unique in its character and complexion of flavors, Gruyere stands in close relation to other cheeses that share similar qualities.
Finding close traits to those of Gruyere, Comté is a milder iteration, similar especially in texture. Dense with undertones of butter and salt, this cheese deserves mention, when looking to find a substitute for Gruyere.
A different take on a Swiss cheese, Emmentaler brings a firm, yet softer consistency, while mild nuances of hazelnut and soft butter makes for an able-bodied stand-in.
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