Gruyère is a hard yellow cheese, named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, and originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne.
Before 2001, when Gruyère gained the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC, now AOP) status as a Swiss cheese, some controversy existed whether French cheeses of a similar nature could also be labelled Gruyère (French Gruyère style cheeses include Comté and Beaufort).
Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavour that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming more assertive, earthy, and complex as it matures. When fully aged (five months to a year) it tends to have small cracks which impart a slightly grainy texture.
Gruyère cheese is generally known as one of the finest cheeses for baking, having a distinctive but not overpowering taste.
- In Quiche, Gruyère adds savouriness without overshadowing the other ingredients.
- It is a good melting cheese, particularly suited for fondues, along with Vacherin and Emmental.
- It is also traditionally used in French Onion Soup, as well as in Croque-monsieur, a classic French toasted ham and cheese sandwich.
- Gruyère is also used in Chicken and Veal Cordon Bleu.
- It is a fine table cheese, and when grated, it is often used with salads and pastas.
- It is used, grated, atop le Tourin, a type of garlic soup from France which is served on dried bread.
White wines, such as Riesling, pair well with Gruyère. Sparkling apple cider and Bock beer are also beverage affinities.
To make Gruyère, raw milk is heated to 34 °C (93 °F) in a copper vat, and then curdled by the addition of liquid rennet. The curd is cut up into pea sized pieces and stirred, releasing whey. The curd is cooked at 43 °C (109 °F), and raised quickly to 54 °C (129 °F).
The whey is strained, and the curds placed into moulds to be pressed. After salting in brine and smearing with bacteria, the cheese is ripened for two months at room temperature, generally on wooden boards, turning every couple of days to ensure even moisture distribution. Gruyère can be cured for 3 to 10 months, with long curing producing a cheese of intense flavour.
Gruyère in Switzerland
In 2001, Gruyère gained the Appellation d’origine contrôlée status. Since then the production and the maturation is defined in the Swiss law, and all Swiss Gruyère producers must follow these rules. To be accepted throughout Europe as an AOC, the “Interprofession du Gruyère” in Switzerland plans to make a transnational AOC with the French producers of Gruyère.
Gruyère Around The World
Gruyère-style cheeses are very popular in Greece, where the local varieties are known as γραβιέρα (graviéra). Some Greek gruyères come from San Michálē (Σαν Μιχάλη, “St. Michael’s”) from the island of Syros in the Cyclades, the Naxian varieties, that tend to be milder and more sweet and various graviéras from Crete.
Gruyère-style cheeses are also produced in the United States, Wisconsin having the largest output.
An important and the longest part of the production of the Le Gruyere Switzerland AOC is the “affinage” (French for maturation).
According to the AOC, the cellars to mature a Swiss Gruyère must have a climate close to that of a natural cave. This means that the humidity should be between 94% to 98%. If the humidity is lower, the cheese dries out. If the humidity is too high, the cheese does not mature and becomes smeary and gluey. The temperature of the caves should be between 13 °C (55 °F) and 14 °C (57 °F). This relatively high temperature is required for excellent quality cheese. Lower quality cheeses result from temperatures between 10 °C (50 °F) and 12 °C (54 °F). The lower the temperature is, the less the cheese matures, resulting in a texture that is harder and more crumbly.
[important]Affinage is the careful practice of ripening cheese, but it’s about much more than simply letting a few stinky wheels sit until some magical buzzer goes off. For those who believe the affinage gospel, it is about a series of tedious, ritualised procedures (washing, flipping, brushing, patting, spritzing) that are meant to knudge each wheel and wedge toward an apex of delectability.[/important]
Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC has many different varieties, with different aged profiles, and an organic version of the cheese is also sold. There is a special variety that is produced only in summer on the Swiss Alps: the Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Alpage.
Generally, one can distinguish the following age profiles.
- mild/doux: min. 5 months old
- réserve: min. 10 months old
In Switzerland, many other age profiles can be found, including surchoix, vieux, salé, and Höhlengereift (cave aged), but these age profiles are not part of the AOC.
The French Le Brouère cheese, made in nearby Vosges, is considered a variant of Gruyère.
Le Gruyère Premier Cru
Le Gruyère Premier Cru is a special variety, produced and matured exclusively in the canton of Fribourg and matured for 14 months in humid caves with a humidity of 95% and a temperature of 13.5 °C (56.3 °F).
It is the only cheese that has won the title of best cheese of the world at the World Cheese Awards in London four times: in 1992, 2002, 2005 and 2006.
Substitutes, Summary and Nutrition
- Made from cow’s milk
- Country of origin: Switzerland
- Type: hard
- Fat content: 40-46%
- Texture: compact
- Vegetarian: no