A Cheesy Holiday

There are only 365 days in a year, but it seems as if there are a million “holidays” assigned to them, some of them bordering on ludicrous (National Ask Your Cat a Question day?). 

January 20 is National Cheese Lovers Day. January 2 was also National Swiss Cheese Day, which, all things considered, must make it a truly Holey Day.  (Yes, that was cheesy).

Swiss Cheese is actually a misnomer. Any cheese made in Switzerland is considered a Swiss Cheese. What Americans refer to as a “Swiss Cheese” is actually an Emmental cheese that contains “eyes” – trademark holes caused by gasses created during manufacture. The more holes, the more taste, with a curing time of 6-18 months to achieve its creamy flavor. An Emmental cheese without holes is sometimes called a “blind” cheese. Over the years, the holes in Swiss Cheese (as we know it) have gotten smaller, making manufacturers wonder if the holes aren’t caused by particulate matter getting in the cheese – tiny bits of hay or detritus that get in the milk, aiding in the production of gas. Modern sterile manufacturing eliminates those contaminants, not giving the gasses something to bond with. Emmental, Emmenthal, and Emmenthaler are all correct names for the cheese.

Many foreign foods are trademarked – Champagne is only Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, otherwise it’s a sparkling wine. Roquefort Cheese can only come from Roquefort (or it’s a Blue Cheese). Bourbon can only come from Bourbon County, Tennessee, otherwise it’s just whiskey. Gruyere lost its trademark name in the US, with the courts deciding that Americans don’t know the location of the cheese, only the taste of that style, no matter the manufacturer. Thus, Swiss Cheese – er, Emmental – can be made anywhere, including Wisconsin. A good Swiss doesn’t have to come from Europe, which makes the price more palatable.

Have you ever thought of making your own cheese? Many of them are rather simple to make  (cottage cheese takes just three ingredients – milk, salt, and vinegar, which replaces the old-fashioned rennet from the cow’s stomach), and all of them will be fresh without chemical preservatives. It’s easier than you think! Unlike canning, mistakes aren’t likely to kill you. Try it as a winter project – you might just discover a new (and tasty!) hobby!

And just to prove that cheese makers aren’t as uptight as you might think, check out this study, where Swiss researchers exposed ageing cheeses to different forms of music (Hip Hop, Stairway to Heaven, and Mozart’s Magic Flute opera). They used mini transmitters to conduct the energy of the music directly into the cheese, so that no energy was lost. (No, I’m not making this up) The cheese was eventually blind-taste tested twice, with similar results each time. The hip-hop exposed cheese was decided to be markedly fruitier and with a stronger taste. The question arises, then, what happens to cheese if you use Swedish Death Metal, or perhaps Raffi?

Check out these instruction books for doing your own experiments with cheese. Your choice of music is up to you!

Grilled Cheese Please!

American Cheese

Artisan Cheese Making at Home

Home Cheese Making

The Whole Fromage

One Hour Cheese

Tasting Wine And Cheese

The Telling Room

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