My American readers probably think about cheese in Switzerland and imagine the kind we get at our grocery stores, conveniently labeled “Swiss cheese.” In truth, our “Swiss Cheese” has very little resemblance to what you’ll commonly find in Switzerland. You probably think that Swiss cheese means white, bland cheese with holes. But, there’s only one Swiss cheese that looks remotely like this, and it’s called Emmental. It’s mild, but it has a distinctly nutty flavor, and it does have holes.
According to a major Swiss tourism site, the country has over 450 cheesemakers. Each cheesemaker seems to have its own unique kind of cheese. I’ve been sampling a large array of them while I’ve been here, thanks to my hosts’ generosity and a big hankering for stinky cheeses.
My favorite Swiss cheese so far comes from the kanton of Apenzell, and it’s conveniently called Appenzeller cheese. Chari and Chris took me to the cheese factory, so I got to see how it was made (see the video to watch the cheeses being transferred from their moulds to storage). I’d describe it as a hard cheese with a complex flavor that tastes mildly of the mountain herbs they brush onto it. I has no holes, and it’s got a rind that isn’t edible.
I’ve really only found one cheese that didn’t rock my world. That’s Tete de Moine (Monk’s Head). I found it overwhelmingly strong, and I didn’t like the aftertaste. It comes in a large round wheel, and there are special devices people use to cut this particular cheese in a circular fashion. I’m a bit disappointed that I don’t like it because it’s an excuse to purchase another kitchen gizmo.
One thing I love about the Swiss is their creative cooking with cheese. Given so many different varieties of cheese, they have many unique dishes that take advantage of their distinct cheeses. A personal favorite is Raclette, which uses what else but Raclette cheese. Like Fondue (which is commonly made with Gruyere and Emmental), Raclette is a social meal, great for eating with a small group of friends.
Here’s Chris and Chari’s Raclette maker. I had the audacity to ask if they had one, and Chari responded with a look of horror. “Every Swiss home has a Raclette maker!” I guess it was like me asking if they had a toaster (they don’t by the way. Swiss people don’t eat American toast, but there’s bread in the stores called “toast.” Go figure).
To make Raclette, you melt the cheese in little pans under the burner, and once it’s all gooey and bubbly, you dump it on potatoes and veggies. You can also fry eggs and cook sausages on top of the Raclette maker. I cooked an egg in my pan and cooked cheese in another, then combined them. Words can’t express how good that tasted.
Honey, don’t be surprised if there’s a Raclette maker in my luggage when I get home. I’m not sure I can continue living my life without this yummy meal.