Emmental, one of the greatest of all cheeses, has long been a part of our daily life. Its origins are ancient, but it always finds its way into modern kitchens. Historically, Emmental is a cooked pressed cheese whose name comes from the Emme Valley, a region east of the Swiss canton of Bern. Emmental, a staple at all house holds, needs to be consumed at ambient temperature. It is excellent in sandwiches, or as dessert and also as cooking cheese as it melts extremely well. Red and white wines are equally complementing of this cheese: try it with a Cotes-Du-Rhone or Merlot, or a Swiss Neuchatel or Chardonnay.
Emmental is easy to recognize: made from cow's milk, this smooth, firm cheese comes in over-sized golden-yellow wheels, ranging from 165 to 180 pounds, and has many holes, poetically known as "eyes". The "eyes" vary from the size of a cherry to that of a walnut. The eyes quality (well distributed, net, round or a bit oval) reflects cheese quality in terms of texture and taste. A very "open" Emmental is a guarantee of a good Emmental. The flavor ranges from nutty to mildly fruity tone. Emmental has exceptional nutritional characteristics as well: this cheese has one of the highest levels of calcium.
Emmental is considered to be one of the most difficult cheeses to successfully manufacture because of its complicated, hole-forming fermentation process. During its fabrication, the cheese undergoes a total of 6 stages before it is ripe enough to reveal its full aroma. In the traditional ripening process, the cheese must stay in the curing room for minimum 7 weeks, a period during which the cheese-maker watches over his wheels and gives the cheese all the attention it needs. At the first step of maturation, in a cold cellar, the cheese cures slowly and the bacteria inside generate a great deal of carbon dioxide. Because of its large size, gas is kept inside the cheese. During the second step, the Emmental is placed in a hot cellar, and the wheels develop a smooth, firm texture, rind and a full aroma. It is also the time when the distinctive holes begin to appear. (The carbon dioxide is trapped inside because of the thick rind and produces bubbles.) During the whole maturing process the cheeses also have to be turned regularly. In the past this was done by hand and the strong muscles of the cheese makers were much feared in the wrestling ring. This traditional ripening method allows for the verification of each phase of the maturation process, thus guaranteeing the quality and taste.