Where is Gruyère Cheese Made and How is it Made?

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Gruyère is a semi-hard to hard pressed cooked Alpine cheese made from cow’s milk, named after the Swiss Village of Gruyères (see our image above). The original cheese is made in Switzerland (though versions are made in parts of Germany, France and the US). An ancient cheese, early records show that it was made in 1115. It can be eaten on its own or used in cooking where it melts beautifully.

There are three Swiss types according to The Cheese Lover’s Companion – a classic Gruyère which is ripened for a minimum of 5 months; a Réserve Gruyère, matured from between 10-16 months and Gruyère  d’Alpage, made from April to October from milk ‘that is produced by cows grazing in high alpine pastures’. Gruyère can be first eaten after a 3 month maturation.

What is gruyere and how is it madeSwiss Gruyère carries both the AOC and AOP label (see below for an explanation of AOC/AOP) and if it carries the AOC designation it means that it has been produced in Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura or Berne. It is made from the milk from two milkings (morning and evening) and has to be made in copper pots, before the cheese is brined and left to ripen. Every day for the first 3 weeks of ageing, the cheesemaker painstakingly wipes the surface of the cheese wheel – weighing between 55-88 pounds in weight – with more brine to encourage the growth of mould. This technique – and the raw unprocessed milk used in the production – is what makes Swiss Gruyère so good for the growth of good bacteria in your gut. The cows whose milk is used in the cheese must be fed on grass or hay and that helps to give the final cheese its distinctive aromatic nutty flavour (the non-Swiss versions are often made with pasteurised milk and may cost less).

What does Gruyère taste like?
Gruyère, whether it is made in Switzerland, Germany, France (or in America where an award-winning version has been made in Wisconsin – read more about Grand Cru Alpine-Style Cheese here) has a mellow aromatic fruity nutty flavour.

It lends itself to use in quiche, dauphinoise and fondues but is at its most distinguished when it is grated on top of the famous French Onion Soup

Take a non-stick or heavy saucepan. Fry finely sliced onions in butter and olive oil over a gentle heat with a bay leaf until they are soft and much reduced (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle on a little sugar, stir and cook until the sugar caramelises the onions (another 10-15 minutes). Add hot vegetable or chicken stock and stir. Cook for about 20 minutes with the lid off over gentle heat, making sure not to reduce the liquid too much. Pour into bowls, top with a slice of toasted baguette and a generous sprinkling of grated gruyère and grill until the cheese melts, bubbles and turns golden. (Place the bowls on a baking tray and take care bringing the bowls to the table!).

Wine choice with gruyère
If you are eating a piece of gruyère on its own a dry red wine is an ideal pairing– try Gamay or Valpolicella or even a dry Rosé. Carbernet Franc or Pinot Noir are also good choices.

What do the initials AOC mean?
AOC is short for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and is given to French food products that have a distinct cultural and gastronomic heritage.

What do the initials AOP mean?
Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) is the European equivalent of the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) – see above.

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You can read more about the town of Gruyères here.



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