- In the US it’s known as ‘Swiss cheese’. Emmentaler has iconic holes in it, and it’s also the world’s largest cheese.
- We visited the Emmentaler Shaukaeserei in town of Affoltern in Emmental, east of Bern, to see how it’s made.
- Eighty per cent of the production of all Emmentaler AOP comes from this region, with 150 producers.
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Cheese production started in the area east of Bern over 200 years ago. It’s a hilly region, so good for cattle grazing. 17,700 tons of Emmentaler are produced each year in this region by 150 family dairies, with 16 distributors.
Emmentaler is made in various regions in Switzerland: Aargau, Bern, Glarus, Lucerne, Schwyz, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Zug, and Zurich. It was granted AOP protection from the EU in 2002, meaning that these areas are the “protected designation of origin.” But there are a few qualifications for this. The milk has to be from dairy farms no fewer than 20 kilometers away. And it must be produced using raw milk.
The Emmentaler Schaukäserei show dairy opened in 1989.
The world-famous holes? They’re created by a reaction in the bacteria. After one month of storage, a strain of bacteria, Propionibacterium shermanii, consumes lactic acid and releases carbon dioxide. These bubbles become trapped in the cheese rind and form holes (also known as eyes).
The size of Emmentaler wheels is heavily regulated, as most have a diameter of 80 to 100 centimeters. They need to be a minimum 75 kilograms and maximum 120 kilograms. For cheese produced here, a kilogram costs 19 Swiss francs, or $US19, so one wheel could cost over $US1,900.
The cheese is matured to a four-month classic, eight-month “Reserve,” 12-month “AOP extra,” and 24-month vintage.
Ninety-five per cent of cheese sold with Emmentaler label are fake Emmentaler. The brand Emmentaler Switzerland actively pursues ‘copies’ of the cheese. Each cheese can be identified by its bacteria, as well as a bespoke cheese number on the rind.
Produced by Ju Shardlow and Charlie Floyd.
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