#SAVE THE EMMENTALER
Diane Rezendes, Food writer
In the town of Emmental, Switzerland, Master Cheesemaker Bernhard Meier produces only two wheels of cheese a day, carefully following the original method that dates back to the 13th century. And Sigona’s is the only retailer in the Bay area to carry this extraordinary Appellation d’Origine Protégée cheese.
In Switzerland, there’s a famous story about Emmentaler cheese, true love, and market opportunity. The story starts once upon a time, as so many do…
Once upon a time, the tiny village of Vehfreude in the Swiss Alps produced the most coveted milk in all the land. From this milk, dairy farmers created such a delectable cheese that demand grew beyond all telling. So they bought more cows to make more cheese. They had more cheese but they lost the magic: the quality of the cheese suffered and the dairy farmers went into debt just to keep up.
The neighboring village of Nageliboden saw business opportunity.
These farmers husbanded their herds carefully and managed their growth wisely. The struggle for market share grew more intense and more ugly.
Inevitably, the conflict would turn personal. And the key players were none other than the Felix and Eglihannes, the sons of the two mayors.
One fateful day, Felix and Eglihannes raced to the market with cheese to sell. But on the way there was a terrible accident, injuring the poor but beautiful Anneli, a humble village girl.
And despite their decidedly not ‘cute-meet’ – to say nothing of the fact that they came from rival villages – Felix and Anneli fell in love. Like the Montagues and the Capulets, their families and villages were outraged and tried to stop the two young lovers. But in the end, unlike Romeo and Juliet, love prevailed, they married, and in fact, their love brought the two villages together.
You probably want to know something about the cheese itself, right? It’s traditional, unpasteurized, hard cheese, made by a process developed in the 13th century in the Emme River valley in the Bern region. In its sweet, nutty aroma, you may even detect fresh-cut hay. During the aging process in underground caves, the iconic holes develop, a result of specific strains of bacteria that result in carbon dioxide, and thus, the walnut-size holes in Emmentaler cheese.
Pairings and serving ideas
Emmentaler melts beautifully, making it perfect for grilled cheese, or grated over just-cooked vegetables. For a nice after-dinner course, present it on a cheese board with walnuts and fresh slices of apple and pear. Our resident wine expert Dan Berkson recommends our Rare Red, Husch Chenin Blanc, or Robert Hall Rosé. And don’t be afraid of beer: in fact, some cheese mongers recommend it as the more felicitous pairing. If that’s your choice, try bock beer, dark lager, or Oktoberfest such as Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier in our stores.
Some facts about Emmentaler:
- For each pound of cheese, it takes about a gallon-and-a-half of milk.
- Cows which produce milk for Emmentaler cheese eat only grass and hay.
- Look for the Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) to know that this cheese is a true Emmentaler cheese. Others imitate the process, and they are lovely cheeses – think of it as you would about wine and terroir – the milk and cultures used are particular to the Emme Valley region and are not found anywhere else.