The Swiss cheese we import from Switzerland and handcraft locally is not like the Swiss cheese you find in the supermarket. In Switzerland, Swiss cheese encapsulates thousands of different varieties made by more than 1500 cheese factories.
At Fromart we represent the traditional Swiss alpine cheeses which are mainly semi-hard to hard cheeses and have their origin in the small but beautiful alpine cheese factories.
What is Swiss cheese?
There are more than 450 different varieties of cheese produced in Switzerland, with the type of milk, fat content, curdling method, water content, aging method and aroma determining the variety. All cheese consists of protein, milk fat, water, minerals and vitamins.
Type of milk
Cow’s milk is generally used for cheesemaking in Switzerland with very few cheeses made using sheep’s or goat’s milk. Raw or pasteurised milk are used for different varieties ‘Silo free’ raw milk (no silage feed in the winter) used for hard cheese and pasteurised or raw milk used for semi-hard cheeses. Soft and cream cheeses are generally prepared using pasteurised milk.
Fat is found in cheese in the form of very fine balls of fat. It may partly melt out if the cheese is not stored appropriately. International standards specify the fat content of cheese as a percentage of the dry matter. This ratio of fat to dry matter is constant and does not depend on water content, which changes according to the age of the cheese due to evaporation.
Cheese varieties are produced with the following degrees of fat content:
- Double cream cheese (at least 65%)
- Cream cheese (55%)
- Full fat cheese (45%)
- Three quarter fat cheese (35%)
- Half fat cheese (25%)
- Quarter fat cheese (15%)
- Low fat cheese (less than 15%)
Cheese is made either using rennet and/or acid coagulation. Rennet is used to make all extra hard, hard and semi-hard cheese varieties. Cream cheeses like Quark or cottage cheese are made with a combination of rennet and acid coagulation.
To a large extent, the water content is what determines the time it takes for the cheese to mature, its consistency, shelf life and appearance. It also has an indirect influence on the taste.
Cheese can be divided into different categories according to its water content. Cream cheese has the highest water content, followed by soft cheese and semi-hard cheese. Extra hard and hard cheese contain the least water.
Cheese can be ripened in two different ways.
- From inside to outside like most hard cheeses such as Emmentaler AOC, and Sbrinz AOC
- From outside to inside like red smear cheese such as Appenzeller®, or white mold cheese such as Camembert.
All varieties of cheese are divided into the categories cream, soft, semi-hard, hard or extra hard, depending on their water content and the time it takes for them to mature. Whereas cream cheese does not need to mature, soft cheese takes at least 1 to 3 weeks to mature. Semi-hard cheese takes several months to ripen, hard cheese takes up to a year, and extra hard cheese can even take as long as three years.
Although the smell and taste determine the aroma of a cheese, its complete personality can only be felt on the palate. There is an infinite range of aromas that can exist in different cheeses, ranging from mild, aromatic, ripe and spicy to recent and strong.
Protein consists of different amino acids. The human body can only make ten essential amino acids by itself; the remaining essential amino acids must be obtained from food and up to 50% of a person’s daily requirements should be covered by animal protein in the form of cheese, milk, eggs, meat, and fish. Cheese is particularly rich in protein and therefore makes a valuable contribution towards covering the daily requirements.
Cheese contain calcium and phosphorous. Both are important, especially for forming healthy bones and teeth, while calcium is also vital for inducing blood clotting, for maintaining normal indirect muscle impulse and for lining capillary walls and cell membranes.
Cheese contains various water-soluble B-complex vitamins. It is also particularly rich in fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K as well as in provitamin A (carotin), which is what gives cheese and butter its characteristic yellow colour.