Switzerland – Cheese Experts in the Mountains
Posted by by Walter Schwartz, deli manager, Byerly’s St. Cloud
Friday, March 2, 2012
On our fabulous trip to Switzerland this past fall, a group of deli managers were able to visit the picturesque Emmental Valley and take a tour of one of the creameries where they make the world famous Emmentaler Swiss cheese.
The drive to the village was breathtaking and when we arrived at the creamery for our tour, we were mesmerized looking out at the rolling pastures across the valley. It truly set the tone for our day.
Our first stop in the tour was an old world house that contained an original room where cheese was made completely by hand. We were given a demonstration on how they created the cheese many years ago by pouring the milk into a massive copper kettle, heating it and separating out the curds from the whey. The living quarters we very cramped and the kitchen area (largest area of the house) was designed to make cheese with a big open fire. It was apparent that the dedication to the craft of cheese making was intense and difficult for these early cheese makers and their families.
August Van Meter and Jenny Hodges take their turn at making cheese
The same starter cultures and rennet are still used today as they have been throughout the history of this cheese. After the wheel is formed, it sits for 24 hours and then placed in a salt brine bath for an additional 24 hours. After it is removed from the brine, it is cured at 70 degrees in 80 percent humidity. They heat cure the wheels for 7 weeks, turning them twice a week to keep the holes, which are forming inside, evenly distributed. These holes are created by probiotic acid and lactose joining to make CO2 deposits. Once the 7 week heat curing process is complete, they cure the wheels in a cooler room for the final 3 to 6 weeks.
The cheeses are graded by professional cheese testers at the end of the curing process and are given a score from 1 to 20. The best cheeses (which must achieve a score of 17.5 or higher) are designated to be sold with the AOC mark. The cheese makers are compensated based on their cheese makes score. This helps to ensure that the highest quality possible is achieved with each vat of cheese.
August Van Meter and Walter Schwartz
The way in which Emmentaler is produced has changed over the years with the modernization of equipment and facilities, but the overall high standards and guidelines that were used hundreds of years ago are still used today to ensure that every wheel keeps the same taste and appeal as when it was first created. We had an incredible experience in the Emmental Valley and encourage our customers to stop into our cheese counters to get a taste of this delicious cheese!
Shown here: August Van Meter(cheese specialist, Byerly’s St. Cloud), Walter Schwartz (deli manager, Byerly’s St. Cloud), Keith Gruber (general manager, Byerly’s St. Cloud), Emmemtaler representative, Jenny Hodges (cheese specialist at Byerly's St. Louis Park), Byron Hanson (director of deli, bakery and food services), Nick Hall (foodE, Byerly’s St. Cloud)