September 9, 2008
La Fête du Fromage - Emmental Français
No, this isn't Swiss cheese.
Yes, Emmental can be from Switzerland. And yes, the two look exactly alike.
However, this is the French version of Emmental, called Emmental Français.
Emmental has been made since the 13th century in the mountainous Savoie and France-Comté regions with the sweet, rich, unpasteurized milk from Tarine and Abondance cows. It takes almost 1000 liters to produce one massive 70 kilo wheel.
The process of making Emmental requires several stages: It first rests in a cold cellar for several days, then it is moved to a warm cellar for one month. The warmer air causes bacteria in the cheese to transform oxygen into CO2, allowing the elastic texture, pale yellow color and walnut sized holes to develop. As soon as the gargantuan wheel starts to bulge it is moved back into the cold cellar and allowed to mature.
Emmental melts beautifully and is often used in soufflé and fondue recipes. I keep little bags of it in grated form to make tarts and savory cakes.
Until last week I hadn't really tasted Emmental Français. Of course I'd eaten pieces of it here and there, but never paid much attention to its flavor. I always thought it was a decent enough cheese, but nothing to get excited about.
Well, I still wouldn't jump around for joy if offered this cheese, but I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
It is wonderful to nibble with some apple or pear slices and crusty bread. The flavor is buttery, slightly fruity, nutty and sweet, and the texture is firm and satiny-smooth.
Serve Emmental with fruity red wines such as Pinot Noir or white Vin de Savoie.
The industrial, pasteurized milk Emmental is available in almost every small food shop and supermarket in France. The unpasteurized, label rouge Emmental Grand Cru is usually sold at the cheese counter or in a Fromagerie.