Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Things I love about Switzerland: Cheese

I must salute a country isn't afraid to serve up big pots of melted cheese (otherwise known as fondue) with bread and potatoes (when we ask for veggies, they look at us like we were crazy).

As my own cheese consumption has easily tripled since moving to Switzerland, I found myself wondering how much cheese the Swiss consumed on an annual basis (could my consumption be normal?). After doing a little research, I discovered that last year, the Swiss ate 149,991 tons or 19.74kg (43.52 lbs!) per person (good, sounds like I'm right on track). Not surprising, given that there are about 450 kinds of cheese produced in Switzerland (so much cheese; so little time).

At this point, I feel I must take a moment to dispel a myth: most Swiss cheese doesn't have holes. What we (Americans) call "Swiss cheese" is in fact Emmentaler (the holes are caused by carbon dioxide building up as it matures - the process gives it its taste). You may or may not be surprised to know that what is marketed in the US as "Swiss cheese" or "Emmentaler cheese" was, most likely, produced in Wisconsin, Utah and Ohio.

So what are some typical Swiss cheeses?

- Emmentaler: Discussed above.

- Gruyere: Produced mainly in French-speaking Switzerland and is claimed by both Switzerland and France (typical). This cheese is used in fondues and French onion soup (I love it in quiche).

- Appenzeller: A semi-hard cheese, named from the region from which it comes. While it is curing, it is washed with an herbal brine, which gives the cheese a fruity flavor.

- Raclette: My favorite. Raclette, the dish, is prepared by heating the cheese and scraping it onto a plate. Yes, that's right. Melted cheese on a plate. Deee-lish. It is most often accompanied by small potatoes and gherkins.

A quick cheese factoid: US President Clinton horrified the Swiss when, in one of the final acts of his administration, he agreed to a recommendation that the size of the holes could be halved (slow day at the White House?) The reason: to reduce the chances of the cheese bursting and to make it easier to slice. Swiss manufacturers quickly announced that the plan did not affect them (and most likely made sure Clinton would never be allowed entry into Switzerland).

... Oh my darling Chase, if only your little tummy could handle cheese ...

Special thanks to, and for valuable cheese factoids and figures

No comments: