Say Cheese!

It would be hard to spend time in Switzerland and not explore the cheese on offer. The country is proud of its dairy traditions and makes them accessible to all. From the dairy case at the smallest grocery shop to mountain top restaurants, cheese, wonderful cheese, is everywhere.

The town of Gruyères is not far from Basel and though we’ve eaten plenty of Gruyère, we had not yet been there. With a recent visitor in tow, we corrected that oversight!

The town is best known for two things: Château de Gruyère, perched on the hill within the town itself, and La Maison du Gruyère, just outside the town in the valley. At La Maison du Gruyère is a show dairy, where you can learn all about the classic Swiss cheese (which is NOT the Swiss Cheese found in American deli counters) and see how it’s made.

maturing wheels of cheeseWe purchased our tickets and were promptly rewarded with, you guessed it, cheese! Each sample pack  contained portions of cheese aged six months, eight months and ten months. There is quite a difference to the taste and texture of each. At three months, it’s smooth and slightly creamy; by ten months, the cheese has developed a distinct crystalline texture and sharper flavor.

Inside, there is a display that tells the story of how Gruyère cheese is made and why it tastes the way it does. More impressive, however, was the video above the factory floor that showed the cheese being made. The volume of milk processed each day is staggering: The cheese dairy is equipped with four vats with a capacity of 4’800 litres and produces up to 48 wheels of cheese each day, each weighing approximatley 35 kilograms.

The final stop was the aging room, which can accommodate up to 7000 wheels of cheese. It was hard to decide which was more impressive: the row upon row of cheese stored there, or the cheese-rotating robot, which removed each wheel, flipped it, moved it into a new spot and went on to the next.

It was all good.


More on cheese:

Emmi Guide to Traditional Swiss Cheese – a quick summary of widely available cheeses from Switzerland

Cheese: Slices of Swiss Culture – food writer Sue Style describers 30 or so (of more than 400) cheeses produced in Switzerland

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