Best known as the key ingredient in classic fondue, Gruyère is one of the most famous cheeses made by the Swiss. A hearty, piquant, hard cow’s milk cheese, Gruyère is named for the town of Gruyères and the surrounding La Gruyère region of western Switzerland.
On the outside, Gruyère has a natural brown wrinkled rind-like crust. Inside, Gruyère is pale gold in colour with little to no porosity. Rich, nutty, salty, and slightly sweet to fruity in flavour, Gruyère is similar to other Swiss-type cheeses, like Emmental. Aged longer, Gruyère is firmer in texture and more assertive in taste.
In 2001, Gruyère earned AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status. Since that time, the production and maturation of Swiss Gruyère has been defined and strictly controlled by Swiss law.
Today, traditional recipe AOC Gruyère may only be crafted in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and several surrounding districts. Formed into large wheels, it takes an average of 400 litres of milk to produce one loaf of Gruyère. A mature loaf weighs about 32 to 36 kilos.
Swiss Gruyère is sold in several different varieties, including organic and non-AOC versions such as surchoix, vieux, salé, and grotte (cave aged). In the Swiss Alps, a special variety of Gruyère is produced during the summer months only: Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Alpage.
Other varieties of AOC Gruyère vary by age. In general terms, mild (doux) Gruyère is aged a minimum of five months, while reserve Gruyère is aged a minimum of 10 months. When young, Gruyère is often described as creamy and nutty. With age, the cheese becomes more assertive, earthy, and complex.
Look For The Following Types:
Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Classic: This is the original Swiss Gruyère, produced the traditional way with pure raw milk, natural cultures, and rennet. Cured for six months in climate-controlled cellars, Gruyère Classic is brushed with salt water once per week until ripened.
Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Reserve: This older cheese is matured for an extended 10 months in climate-controlled cellars. Brushed with salt water once a week, Gruyère Reserve displays a slightly spicier flavour and darker rind than the Classic.
Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC Premier Cru: To make Gruyère Premier Cru, cheese makers select the best Gruyères from the Fribourg region. The cheeses are then matured for 14 months in strictly-controlled caves with a humidity of 95% and a temperature of 13°C.
Perfect for special occasions, this outstanding variety of Gruyère has three times won the title of “best cheese of the world” at the World Cheese Awards held in London. It is strong, full-flavoured, and mildly salty, with a fine texture.
French Gruyère: On the other side of the border, the French make many Gruyère-style cheeses, including Comté and Beaufort. These cheeses are produced using methods very similar to Swiss Gruyère, yet there has been much conflict and controversy over whether the French should be able to label their cheeses with the Gruyère name.
Until that’s settled, there is one major difference between Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC and France’s “generic” Gruyère varieties. According to French agricultural law, French Gruyère-style cheeses must have holes (pea- to nut-sized). Swiss Gruyère cheeses have very few, or preferably, no holes at all.
Buying And Storage Tips
Gruyère is available year-round at most grocery stores and cheese shops. For authentic Swiss Gruyère, look for the Le Gruyère Switzerland AOC name and label on the cheese packaging. This official mark of quality guarantees your Gruyère was made using traditional Swiss methods and know-how.
Once home, securely wrap and refrigerate your Gruyère. It should keep well for several weeks.
Distinctive, sharp, and great for melting, Gruyère is a traditional ingredient in fondue, French onion soup, Le Tourin, and Croque Monsieur (France’s classic hot ham and cheese sandwich). One of the finest cheeses for baking, Gruyère is also wonderful in soufflés, quiches, and gratins.
But don’t overlook Gruyère’s place on an elegant cheese board, as well. Delightfully nutty, spicy, and full-flavoured, this famous Swiss cheese is quite delicious served with fresh fruit and crackers.
For an exciting change of pace, grate Gruyère to top your favourite pastas and salads. In fact, you can use Gruyère in most any recipe or way that you would use your usual Swiss.
Gruyère With Wine
Gruyère is sweet and nutty, with just a hint of fruitiness, and that means it pairs well with many types of wine. Try it with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, or Zinfandel. For more festive occasions, Gruyère also pairs wonderfully with Champagne. Proscht, zum wohl, and gsundheit!