Ten varieties of cheese you should be able to identify if you live in Switzerland
Admit it: you moved to Switzerland for the cheese, right? And even if you didn’t, you have probably tasted many of them by now. But can you identify which cheese is which?
Switzerland produces 450 varieties of cheeses — that’s a hole lot of cheese.
You may not have tried all of them — yet — or perhaps haven't even heard of them, so this is a good opportunity to learn.
Why is this important? Not only is cheese an essential part of the country’s culture (and its economy as well), but this is the kind of knowledge that may prove useful on a citizenship test as well.
Not to mention the most important reason: cheese is delicious.
Here are 10 Swiss cheeses from various regions that you should be able to identify. While they are all different in terms of texture and taste, they all have one thing in common: they are made from fresh, untreated milk and sourced from cows who eat only grass and hay.
Perhaps the most famous of Switzerland’s cheeses, Gruyère comes from canton Fribourg, from the very picturesque region of the same name. It is recognisable by its solid yellow colour and taste that ranges from sharp to mild.
It is also the only Swiss cheese that has stirred controversy after an American court ruled in January that this cheese doesn’t have to be manufactured in Gruyère— or even in Switzerland, for that matter — in order to bear the name.
Named after the Bern’s Emmental valley where it is produced, it has a distinctly mild and nutty taste.
This is also the only Swiss cheese with holes, which “range from the size of cherries to the size of nuts and are formed during the maturation process”, according to Switzerland Cheese Marketing board (SCM).
Yes, it comes from the both Appenzells (Inner- and Ausserrhoden) and SCM describes it as “the most flavoursome cheese in Switzerland” (of course, other cheese-producing regions may disagree).
Be it as it may, its tangy flavour comes from the manufacturing process involving the use of herbal brine.
If there is such a thing as Swiss cheese with foreign roots, Tilsiter is it.
As SMC describes it, Otto Wartmann returned home to Thurgau in 1893 from a small town in East Prussia called Tilsit.
“He brought a cheese recipe with him. He refined this recipe on his timber yard in the lovely Bissegg in Thurgau. And there he cultivated cheese production, with brand-new quality standards”.
It is hard to know what this cheese tasted and looked like like back then, but today it has semi-firm texture and intense flavour.
Even though the French claim this cheese (and dish) as their own, the Swiss scoff at this idea, as they scoff at pretty much everything the French say.
This semi-hard, semi-sharp cheese that comes from various regions of Switzerland — including Fribourg and Valais — is eaten melted, poured over boiled potatoes and accompanied by cornichons small pickled onions.
Photo: Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash
Tête de Moine
Translated this means monk’s head — a cylindrical cheese from Jura so named because, as legend has it, it was used by the monks as currency back in the 12th century.
This aromatic, slightly tangy cheese is never sliced but “scraped” into little rosettes with a special cheese curler.
This extra-hard, extra sharp cheese from central Switzerland that is broken into chunks or grated rather sliced, “takes at least 18 months to mature – and the longer it is given to mature, the more aromatic and flavoursome the taste”, SMC says.
It is often used instead of Parmesan in Swiss cuisine.
Vacherin Mont d’Or
This round, super-soft cheese with hard crust comes from the Vallée de Joux area of Vaud.
“The delicately melting, creamy quality is best enjoyed eaten from a spoon at room temperature”, according to SMC. “Gourmets love Vacherin Mont-d’Or AOP and enjoy it as an excellent dessert cheese or heated in the oven and served warm alongside new potatoes or crunchy bread”.
While there is no standardised “Alpine cheese” in Switzerland, mountain dairies produce a variety of regional cheeses like Hobelkäse or Mutschli.
They are made from the milk of cows that graze on high-altitude meadows, eating aromatic alpine herbs.
Last but not least: what about the fondue?
Fondue is a dish, rather than a single cheese.
Photo by angela pham on Unsplash
The real Swiss one, Moitié-Moitié (French for half-half), is made from 50 percent Gruyère and 50 percent Fribourg Vacherin.
It is a good thing to know if this question pops up on the citizenship test.