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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Winter Gruyere's Tale

If you shall chance, Camillo, to visit Bohemia, on the like occasion whereon my services are now on foot, you shall see, as I have said, great difference betwixt our Bohemia and your Sicilia.

It's late winter in Vermont and I'm making Gruyere.   Much of the snow is gone, and sugaring has begun in earnest.  Mud season is upon us.  

I've been meaning to make more Gruyere for a while, but other cheeses and obligations have gotten in the way.  But it's time.  The cheeses I make now will be ready in July and August.

I've put more time into developing this cheese than any other.   I've watched films of alpine huts with open fires under massive copper cauldrons filled with the morning's milk, soon to become Alpage, mountain cheese.  I've tried to decipher the patois as the master cheesemaker leads a tour of his cool cave full of glowing Gruyeres.   I've scoured the literature, studied the development of good American Gruyere in Wisconsin, and distilled this information for my own mountain cheese.   

We visit the farm.

While we chat, Lucy deftly cleans the cans with steam and sanitizer, then fills them.


At home, stainless steel is sterilized,  the milk is heated, pH is measured, cultures and rennet are applied.  The rhythm of cheesemaking.  There is heating, stirring, and a lot of waiting.  The process for the batch is documented.

Then milk becomes cheese curd.

This cheese has a second heating to a higher temperature, which I measure carefully.   I didn't see any digital thermometers in the Alpine huts; how can they possibly be doing this right?  

The finished curds are transferred to a cheesecloth-lined form to be pressed.  The cultures which were inoculated into the milk continue to work in the warm curd, converting lactose to lactic acid.

The curd block is pressed for a day and then brined for a day.  The new cheese is full of promise, smooth and golden from the Jersey milk from which it's made.

These cheeses will be rubbed with another culture suspended in brine, regularly, to develop a characteristic flavor and quality.   This will be done for several months, while they age in my cave and while we wait.

Good Paulina, Lead us from hence, where we may leisurely
Each one demand and answer to his part
Perform'd in this wide gap of time since first
We were dissever'd:  hastily lead away.

1 comment:

  1. Great and informative post. You have the best photos. Stay Cheesy!


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