Littell's Living Age/Volume 146/Issue 1886/Gruyere Cheese

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Perhaps the most justly celebrated cheese made on the Continent of Europe is the Swiss Gruyère. This is made mostly in huts, called chalets, high up among the Alps, at the time during which the pastures on the mountain-sides are accessible, and the huts habitable, say, from the melting of the snow in May to the end of September, when men and animals descend for the winter into the sheltered valleys thousands of feet below. The châlets are located in the midst of the mountain pastures on a spot safe from avalanches, and generally near to a small pond or spring of water, when such are available. Provisions from the valleys are carried up weekly to the châlets, and it is under such difficult and romantic circumstances that a cheese is made which for hundreds of years has been considered almost, if not quite, the best on the Continent. The milk, partly skimmed, or not, according to the quality of cheese desired to be made, is put into a great kettle and swung on a crane over a gentle fire, where it is allowed to attain a temperature of 77 degrees Fahr., when the kettle is swung off the fire and rennet is added to the milk. When coagulation has advanced far enough, the curd is cut into as fine pieces as is practicable with the large wooden knife which is used for the purpose. The kettle is then swung over the fire again, and the curd is taken up in small quantities in a porringer, and poured back through the fingers, whereby it is still more finely divided. Great importance is attached to this division of the curd, in order that each particle may he fully exposed to the action of the heat in the “cooking” process, which ensues up to a point when a temperature of 90 degrees has been attained. The kettle is then immediately swung off the fire, and the waste of curd and whey stirred for some fifteen minutes longer; and if the cooking has been properly performed, the particles of curd have the appearance of bursted grains of rice swimming in the whey. The curd is then collected in a cloth, and great care is taken to expel all the whey. The salting of the cheese is also considered a delicate and important process. The salt is rubbed, from time to time, on the outside of the cheese, care being taken to discern when enough shall have been absorbed. The Gruyère cheeses are commonly three feet in diameter, and weigh over one hundred pounds. A successful cheese of this kind is like a soft yellow paste, which melts in the mouth, and it is filled with cavities about the size of a pea, one or two, say, in each square inch of cheese.