The One with the Holes

Swiss cheese remains a versatile food for the world and although Switzerland is loved for its chocolates and watches, its cheeses go way back in time and history. Let’s delve into a fondue of Swiss cheese and get to know it a little better!

Swiss cheese. Photo by Mohamed Hassouna. Unsplash

Some of our earliest visuals of Swiss cheese go back to scenes from Tom and Jerry (ha ha). How Jerry’s senses were overcome by the whiffs of a triangular hole-y cheese, as Tom chases him around in this iconic cartoon. Jokes apart, like most other European countries, Switzerland takes its culinary expertise pretty seriously – so when it comes to cheese-making, well, the Swiss do it the best. Considered to be among the healthiest of cheeses, it is a great way to incorporate protein, calcium, and vitamin B12 into your diet with its sweet and nutty notes.

Cheese board with pairings of fruit, bread, nuts and pretzels. Lindsay Moe. Unsplash

The small country of Switzerland produces dozens if not hundreds of varieties of cheese. The great part is that when it comes to pairing cheese, there is no wrong just degrees of right, depending on your taste palate. We all have a different sense of taste and prefer some combos over others, so go ahead and experiment! Since Swiss cheese has a less salty flavour, putting together a board of pickled, fresh and dried fruits, crackers, salted lavash and some Merlot is a fine option.

A Slice of Cheese History

What’s today known as ‘Swiss cheese’ was produced in the Emmental region of Switzerland in the early 15th century. The Emmentals kept it a secret until the 1800s until exports increased and people around the world were able to produce a similar cheese with its distinguishable holes. If you’re travelling to parts of Europe, people still refer to it as Emmental and may not understand when you ask for Swiss cheese!

Cheese maturing in Switzerland. Photo by Xavier von Erlach. Unsplash

The cheese gets its special hole-filled texture and flavour from cow’s milk and a special kind of bacteria; P. shermanii that solidifies the milk and releases gases. The cheese is initially processed at a slightly higher temperature of 21°C which creates gas bubbles. These bubbles pop when the storage temperature is lowered down to 4°C, forming holes or as the Emmentals call them, ‘eyes’. In fact these holes are taken so seriously that when they are missing the Swiss call the batch ‘blind’! It takes about six weeks to make this cheese, the first four weeks at 21°C for the eyes to form, and after it is aged for about two months before selling. So next time when you look for a good bit of Swiss cheese make sure it isn’t blind..!

Fun fact, just as Swiss cheese gets ready to be sold in over three months, some cheese is aged for as long as 18 years.

Variety of cheeses. Andrea C Taylor Jr. Unsplash


Priya Kumari Rana

Lifestyle Insider is a kind of junction point, connecting people with diverse interests that touch on the more luxurious aspects of lifestyle – fashion, design, travel, food and spirits, art, watches and jewellery, cars, yachts, and aviation, and technology. People today don’t fit into boxes and categories. In our individual ways, we are interested in diverse themes, products, and the challenges that face our world today. You will judge how well this effort of mine caters to your passions and proclivities.

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A luxury and fashion journalist with 25 years of experience in publishing and magazine journalism, I have edited some of India’s top fashion and luxury magazines. I got my BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and went on to receive my Master’s in English and French from the University of Strasbourg, France. I have also studied German and Film. I live in Gurugram, India, and look forward to once again exploring our world with a new-found freedom.

Priya Kumari Rana

Founder and Editor

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