28 Apr 2011

High and mighty Gruyère

Alpine pastures add to the flavour of Gruyère
The pretty cows grazing in the Alpine pastures of Switzerland with bells round their necks are not there just for the benefit of tourists. Though this iconic scene has sold a million postcards, the milk from these hardy cattle has long been the key ingredient in one of Europe’s finest cheeses.

Made in Switzerland since at least the 12th century and named after a medieval town in the Alps, Swiss Gruyère is treasured by chefs for its versatility. Perfect for melting and baking, the cheese is an essential ingredient in such classic dishes as chicken Cordon Bleu, French onion soup and, most famously, fondue.

But it is also more than able to hold its own on the cheese boards of fashionable restaurants thanks to a complex, nutty flavour, which strikes a delicate balance between sweetness and saltiness. This rounded flavour owes much to the cows’ diet as they wander below snow-capped peaks. 

“If you walk in Switzerland’s hills and valleys in the summer, you’re not just walking on grass, but pastures full of herbs and tiny Alpine flowers. This makes for marvellously sweet milk, which is one of the secrets of Le Gruyère’s flavour,” explains Maurice Johnson of Interprofession du Gruyère – the trade body that represents the 200 or so mainly small artisan dairies in Switzerland that make the cheese.

To read the rest of this article, which was first published in the April edition of Harrods Magazine, click here

27 Apr 2011

School of Artisan Food teaches art of affinage

The School of Artisan Food has opened a new dairy training centre, which as well as running cheesemaking courses will provide students with an insight into the art of ‘affinage’.

Targeted at aspiring cheesemakers, existing professionals and dairy farmers, the 1,200 sq ft centre is based on the Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire. 

It houses several cheesemaking production areas and a range of professional equipment, including two 400-litre vats, peg mills and a press, as well as equipment for fresh and washed cheeses.

Six separate maturing rooms are a key feature of the new facility, which will enable students to learn more about how maturing affects different cheeses.

“The rooms and equipment are ideal for a first step in cheesemaking. We can also mature almost any variety of cheese and carry out experiments on weight loss during maturation,” said Val Bines, the School’s head of dairy. “The maturing facilities available at the Dairy Training Centre replicate the conditions available to ‘affineurs’, allowing students to examine and understand the importance of the maturing process.” 

Students enrolled on the Advanced Diploma in Artisan Food Production will use the new centre, as will people attending the School’s range of professional workshops.
Production methods for a wide range of dairy products will be taught including hard, soft and blue cheese, as well as yoghurt, ice-cream and butter.

For more information see: www.schoolofartisanfood.org

* First published in the Cheeswire section of Fine Food Digest's April 2010 issue. Click here and turn to p24.