Swiss Cheese

When you see a block of cheese and it’s consumed with holes, what type of cheese comes to mind? SWISS CHEESE! Did you know that Swiss Cheese is a generic name for several different types of cheese? The Swiss cheese that is produced in Switzerland is actually called Emmental cheese and it originates from the Emme valley in the canton of Bern in Switzerland. Swiss cheese is known for its nutty, bittersweet taste.

How did the distinctive appearance of Swiss cheese – the blocks riddled with holes, known as “eyes” come to be?   To answer this we’ll need to know how cheese is made.

To make cheese, you need the help of bacteria.  Starter cultures containing bacteria are added to milk, where they create lactic acid.  This is essential for producing cheese.  Various types of bacteria can be used to make cheese, and some cheeses require several different bacteria to give them a particular flavor.

Propionibacter shermani is one of three types of bacteria used to make Swiss cheese and is responsible for the cheese’s distinctive holes.  Once P. shermani is added to the cheese mixture and warmed, bubbles of carbon dioxide form producing holes in the final product.  Cheesemakers can control the size of the holes by changing the acidity, temperature, and curing time of the mixture.  Swiss cheese without eyes is known as “blind.”

Swiss cheese, or Emmental cheese is considered to be a hard cheese.  The aging time is usually 2 to 14 months.  The older the cheese, the larger the holes or eyes will be.