Gruyère (grew-YAIR) cheese is considered a Swiss product although it was formed a thousand years ago during Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire (800-1806 AD). The empire included areas now known as France, Switzerland, and parts of Germany. At the time, the forests where called gruyères. Lumberjacks sold wood to cheesemakers who made Comté and Gruyère. The cheese mongers, called Sennen, “mountain people”, of the high Alps, paid for the wood with their cheeses. The high Alps bred the best cattle which make Gruyère and French Comté some of the best cheeses in the world.
In 2001, Gruyère was awarded the AOC certificate (“appellation d’origine contrôlée, or controlled designation of origin). This regulates the methods and locations of where and how a cheese is made. For Gruyère this means the regions of Vaud, Neuchatel, Jura and France. In the 18th and 19th century, the people of Fribourg where the town of Gruyère is located in present day Switzerland, migrated to all these different areas. The French style of the cheese has holes, whereas the Swiss as no holes. Which has better flavor is up to you.
Features of Gruyère
Gruyère is a cow’s milk, unpasteurized, firm, brushed rind cheese. The rind is inedible so it is best not to buy the cheese that has rind on all three sides or you will be paying the price for the rind as well as the edible part of the cheese. It is a superb cheese for cooking because of its high butterfat-to-moisture ratio and responds best to low heat cooking. This makes it excellent for fondues. It is also good for gratins, soups, French onion soup, croque-monsieur, toasted ham and cheese, chicken, veal cordon blue, and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is a melting cheese aged in caves at a high temperature that gives it a more assertive flavor than Emmental, and requires a longer aging period (8-10 months). Cheese makers do not skim the cheese and so it has two times the flavor as Emmental with a sweet-saline beefiness and undertones of fruit (apples and pears) and nuts.
Pairings: White wines and Riesling
Try this cheese as it is the only one that won the best cheese of the world at the World Cheese Awards four times in 1992, 2002, 2005, and 2015.
Jenkins, Steven, Cheese Primer, Workman Publishing Co., Inc., © 1996, pp. 113, 269, 270, 274-278