Cheese of the Week: Le Gruyère AOP
Learn more about this renowned, creamy Swiss cheese.
Le Gruyère AOP is a traditional Swiss alpine cheese made with unpasteurized cow's milk. This cheese has impeccable quality due to the rigorous cheesemaking standards set by the AOP. When young, Le Gruyère AOP is mild, nutty and slightly-sweet with a creamy, soft texture. As it matures, its flavors become more complex and full-bodied, and its texture becomes grainy.
Le Gruyère was first crafted in 1115 in the district of La Gruyère in the Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland. In the 12th century, inhabitants of this region used the milk from their cows to make full-fat cheese and sold it in France and Italy.
It was not until the 17th century that Le Gruyère AOP's name was officially recognized and it began to be heavily exported. With no trade protection, Le Gruyère was often imitated. In the 21st century, Controlled Destination of Origin and Protected Destination of Origin agreements were created to protect good's names and origins. In 2001, Le Gruyère cheeses were granted appellation d'origine protégée (AOP) in Switzerland and for the rest of Europe in 2011. These certifications ensure the quality of Le Gruyère by allowing it to only be produced by authorized producers in designated regions of Europe and Switzerland.
Le Gruyère AOP is still crafted in the traditional way by expert Gruyère cheesemakers. It all starts with high-quality milk from cows that feed on fresh grass pastures in the summer and hay in the winter. The milk is delivered to the dairy twice daily. Starter culture and rennet is added to the milk and it is allowed to curdle for 35-40 minutes. The milk is not heated during this time, which allows all of the aromas of raw milk to remain in the cheese.
The curds are then cut and the vat is heated to 135°F for 40-45 minutes. During this time the curds become the size of wheat grain. The curds and whey are put into molds. The curds are pressed for about 20 hours to remove all whey. After 20 hours, the wheels are soaked in a 22% salt brine for 24 hours. After the brine, the wheels move to the maturing cellar where they age for 5-18 months, depending on the variety. These cellars are kept at 59°F and 90% humidity. After four months, the cheese wheels are tested by experts from the Interprofession du Gruyère Association to see if they are AOP quality.
Watch the Le Gruyère AOP cheesemaking process in the video below!
Pair young Gruyère with champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir. Mature Gruyère is best enjoyed with Chardonnay and Riesling. Because of its slightly sweet and nutty notes, Le Gruyère is delicious eaten with fresh and dried fruits, preserves and candied nuts.