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What is Emmentaler?

Wheels of Emmentaler cheese can weigh more than 200 pounds.
Emmentaler is the classic Swiss cheese.
A sandwich made with Emmentaler cheese.
Emmentaler is a mild cheese that melts well in quiches and other baked items.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2014
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Emmentaler is the classic “Swiss” cheese, a creamy cheese with deep holes and pockmarks which has been made in Switzerland for centuries. Emmentaler has a protected origin designation so that the integrity of true Swiss Emmentaler can be maintained, by requiring that cheese labeled Emmentaler meet a stringent set of requirements. The process for making Emmentaler is widely duplicated all over the world, including the United States, where the product is labeled Swiss cheese, and Norway, where the famous Jarlsberg cheese is made.

Emmentaler is a brined cheese, which gives the cheese a slightly salty flavor and a strong rind. The wheels of cheese, when finished, often weigh upwards of 150 pounds (70 kilograms), and are carefully monitored to ensure that the cheese is of the high quality associated with Emmentaler cheese. As the grandfather of all Swiss type cheeses, Emmentaler is revered by many consumers, and is well worth the additional cost at the market.

Emmentaler is a semi firm cheese which ranges from pale cream to yellow in color, and is distinguished by large, irregular holes in the cheese. Many of them reach the size of walnuts, while others are minimal in size. The cheese itself is slightly salty, creamy, and mild in flavor with faintly acidic notes. Because Emmentaler is so mild, it is an extremely versatile cheese, and can be found in recipes all over the world.

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Emmentaler pairs well with fruit plates and many wines, and plays a starring role in quiches and fondue frequently as well. The cheese melts extremely well, and lends itself to grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna melts, and other culinary situations in which a well melted, mild cheese is desired. Emmentaler is also popular among children, because of the mild flavor, and is an excellent way to introduce young children to the milder end of gourmet cheeses.

Emmentaler is made by curdling milk and pressing the curds in large cheese molds, which are kept under pressure and turned occasionally for drainage for approximately one day before the cheese is brined and placed in a cave to ripen. The cheese is kept relatively cool for approximately two weeks, and then introduced to a warmer cellar to ferment for six to eight weeks. During the fermentation process, the cheese forms carbon dioxide gas which is unable to escape the thick rind, forming the distinctive holes. After this the cheese can be stored for sale.

Part of the protected designation origin of the cheese dictates that Emmentaler is made with raw milk which comes from Swiss cows kept in humane and hygienic conditions. The milk used for Emmentaler is of an astoundingly high quality, mildly flavored and slightly spicy from the diet the cows are fed, combined with their ability to range pasture during the summer. The cows are never fed silage or genetically modified organisms, and genetically modified rennet or bacterial cultures during the cheese making process are also forbidden.

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