One of my favorite parts of our trip was learning about how all the delicious cheese we were eating was actually made! Renaud brought us to his friend who is studying cheese making. The cheese shop in St. Cierges makes Gruyere and their own specialty, Le Brigand Du Jorat!
The process of making Gruyere was a lot more complicated than I expected.
This cheese shop gets their milk from local farmers who bring their milk in at the end of each day. It takes 70 Liters of milk to make one full circle of cheese.
They slowly heat the milk to 54 Celsius to evaporate the water and then press it for 20 hours in one of these machines.
Then they soak the slightly formed cheese in an 80% salt solution for 24 hours. The salt disinfects to get rid of the bacteria. It takes about 6 months of aging before the salt that the cheese was soaked in to reach the middle of the cheese circle.
The picture below is of the salt bath they soak the cheese in:
After the salt soak, they store the cheese circles in the basement. For 8 days, they salt the blocks by hand and flip them daily. It’s rare for most places now to do anything like this by hand.
The numbers on the cheese is their factory ID number. Cheese production is highly regulated.
They then move the cheese blocks to another room where the continue to brush them with salt 3 times per week for 6 months. This is where the cheese finishes absorbing the salt (about 20% of the salting is from this step).
Gruyere is aged for at least 6 months. If they age it for a year, it is considered a sharp, old Gruyere. Some places are starting to age their cheese for 3 years because it’s trendy, but it gets really salty. Cheese gets saltier with time because the water evaporates.
They also use a machine to salt and clean the cheese blocks.
Their specialty cheese: Le Brigand Du Jorat is one of my all time favorites!
Little pine trees are pressed along the edges of their blocks of cheese because they plant a tree for every 10 circles that are sold. It’s made in St. Cierges, where the cheese shop is. They use Raisinee, an evaporated apple concentrate, to coat the blocks and “add flavor.” We were told by an insider 😉 that it’s just for marketing, but it’s still pretty cool.
The main production differences between Le Brigand Du Jorat and Gruyere are that they leave the cream instead of taking it out and they cook the milk at 48 Celsius in the beginning instead of 54 Celsius.
Another interesting fact we learned about cheese is that the microbe bacteria (probiotic) that is used to make cheese is only bought from Denmark. After you buy it from them, you can cultivate it for up to 5 years, but otherwise they basically have a monopoly on cheese making bacteria haha. One of the bacteria names that helps make Gruyere is pretty long-brachybacterium alimentarium (just because I know everyone wants to know that). There are tons of different bacteria used for different cheeses and they are essential.
I thought it was really interesting learning about it-especially because it was so delicious :). He even gave us a free piece of each to bring home :’).
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