Simon Johnson Swiss Cheese
When it comes alpine and mountain cheeses, no country in the world can match Switzerland’s reputation. Gruyère is regularly voted best in the world and no-one can resist a gooey wave of Raclette. But what about the high quality, traditional Swiss cheeses that we're starting to see more of?
The great cheeses of Switzerland can trace their history beyond the Roman Empire. By the Middle Ages, Swiss cheese was highly desired as long maturing, hard cheeses with beautiful flavours – a reputation that continues to this day.
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Mør Snap Crackers
Made simply in a time-honoured tradition from only natural ingredients, the earthy flavours pair perfectly with nutty mountain cheese.
Simon Johnson Cornichons
The must-have partner to melted cheese fondue. Crisp crunchy and tart, a little pickle balances out the creaminess.
Swiss Gruyère Vieux AOP
An excellent table cheese for use in any Swiss cheese recipe – any leftovers make the ultimate toastie.
SIMON JOHNSON Dijon Mustard
The mild salty sweetness of Dijon mustard cuts through the delicious richness of the cheese and cured meats.
MOUNTAIN VS NATURAL ALPINE
An important distinction to be made with Swiss cheese is the difference between “mountain” and the traditional “natural Alpine” cheeses. Many Swiss mountain cheeses are made in dairies year-round, whereas the true “natural Alpine” cheeses are made in small dairies and cooperatives using milk from cows who spend their summers high in the Alps grazing exclusively on fresh grass and hay.
AN EXQUISITE EVOLUTION
The cycle of seasons and mountainous environment of Switzerland led to the evolution of these special Alpine cheeses when farmers, at the beginning of summer, would lead their herds up into the mountains where the slopes are blanketed in grasses, herbs, and wild flowers known as the “alpage.”
Cheeses made from the rich & abundant summer milk of the Alpage were delicious and full of flavour, but were far from any markets. Farmers knew they needed to make cheese that would last and survive the long trip back down the mountain.
But small cheese matures quickly, and it takes 400 litres to make one efficient 40kg wheel, so farmers would pool their milk, make large wheels, and mature them in the Alpine chalets until the cows returned to the valleys in autumn.
These traditional cheeses are classified as “hard cooked” and are made by slowly heating the rennet-infused milk to force the curds to contract and release moisture. Cooking the curd in copper pots over a wood fire caramelises the remaining lactose, leaving a smooth texture and nutty sweetness.
Since 2004 SIMON JOHNSON has been working with Käseswiss, a Zürich-based company that specialises in carefully selecting and maturing beautifully made Swiss cheeses. Käseswiss is owned and operated by Rachael Sills, a New Zealander who has been working in the specialist cheese field for over 25 years. Through Käseswiss, SIMON JOHNSON gets access to some of the highest quality Swiss cheese available. So if you have a soft spot for cheese, here’s where to start if you want to explore this delicious world.
Originally an Alpine cheese, Emmentalar is “the” cheese that drove the generalisation that “Swiss” cheese has holes in it. Holes are formed when bubbles are trapped under the rind and, as the cheese matures at higher temperatures, the holes expand inside the cheese. Emmentaler’s popularity is now such that it is made all over Switzerland.
Named after the picturesque Alpine village of Gruyère, and made since the 13th Century, Gruyère is the most popular cheese in Switzerland. Starting life (at 5 months) with a firm and dense texture with a nutty flavour, as it ages it develops a complex, rich flavour and is a smooth and eyeless cheese that is also wonderful for melting or grilling. Aged Gruyère (or Gruyère Vieux) is highly prized, and SIMON JOHNSON – through its partnership with Käseswiss – is importing some special examples of 18-month Gruyère Vieux made by Alain Cardinaux from the Aeschlenberg Dairy; a master who makes six cheeses per day, never ever takes a day off, and skis every afternoon during the winter.
A true, traditional Alpine cheese, L’Etivaz is a raw milk cheese produced only from May to October in the Alpine chalets of the Alpes Vaudoises and lower mountain areas in Switzerland. This special cheese is ivory yellow in colour and has a clean, fruity flavour with a slight smokiness, that varies according to the pasture that the cows graze on.
Or “cellar dweller” in English, is a modern, small production Mountain cheese that uses a secret blend of wine, herbs and spices. Made by master cheesemaker Walter Räss and based on another Swiss cheese “Appenzeller,” but aged for 9 months, Challerhocker is nutty, sweet and malty but with a spicy finish.
Meaning ‘First King’ and named for the Churfirsten mountain range that dominates the region, First Konig is made with unpasteurised milk and is matured for 6 months. This cheese is made in small amounts, has an amber coloured rind with a creamy, herbaceous flavour and a delicate spicy finish.