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Gruyère : Interesting Facts and Pairing Ideas

In our series of articles on interesting facts and pairing ideas, for different types of cheese, the next cheese is Gruyère, a delicious cheese from the luscious green pastures of western Switzerland and a favorite among many gourmet cooks due to its unique flavor and versatility.

Gruyère cheese
Gruyère cheese

Interesting Facts

  1. Gruyère is one of the varieties of mountain or alpine cheeses made from cow's milk. It has been made for centuries in the countryside around the village of Gruyères in Fribourg canton in western Switzerland.
  2. Historically France and Switzerland have shared the Gruyère name but in 1986, French Gruyère de Comté cheese was officially named to Comté. In 2001, Gruyère was granted the AOC (appellation d'origine) designation as a Swiss cheese, and in 2011 the Protected Designation of Origin by the European Union which identifies products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area.
  3. An important and also the longest part of the production of Swiss Gruyère is the affinage (French term for maturation). According to the Swiss AOC law, the cellars to mature a Gruyère must have a climate close to that of a natural cave, which ensures the right temperature and humidity for creating high quality cheeses.
  4. During the maturation period the cheese wheels are regularly turned over and brushed with salted water, which besides influencing the flavor works as a natural preservative and helps to develop a good outside layer called the rind. Maturation period lasts between 5 and 18 months.
  5. Le Gruyère AOP Premier Cru from Cremo SA von Mühlenen is a special variety, produced and matured for 14 months exclusively in the canton of Fribourg in humid cellars at a temperature of 13° C. It is the only cheese that has won the title of best cheese of the world at the World Cheese Awards, four times between 1992 - 2015.
  6. Gruyère has a distinctive savory taste which is not overpowering and hence it is commonly used for baking and particularly for making quiches and cheese puffs.
  7. Gruyère is used in French onion soup, and in fondue recipes in combination with two other Swiss cheeses, Appenzeller and Emmantaler.
  8. Gruyère cheese is high in calcium and a good source of vitamin K2 which is essential for good health, resistance to aging, some protection from cancer, diabetics and degenerative disease. It also provides vitamin B12 which slows down brain aging, protects against heart disease and facilitates the growth of nerve cells.
  9. Due to the fresh green grass consumed by the cows all summer long, the resulting Alp cheese is particularly rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Pairing Ideas

Gruyère cheese has a smooth, creamy, sweet but slightly salty flavor that varies depending on the aging period. When it is young, the flavor is sweet and slightly salty; with aging it acquires a more assertive but pleasant taste, nutty flavor, complexity and earthy notes.

Cheese tasting
Cheese tasting

What to Serve with Gruyère

Gruyère is a perfect pairing with fruits, crackers, pecans, bread and mustard. An aged Gruyère can be eaten on its own, if you enjoy its complex nutty flavor.

Gruyère cheese can be paired with beer, wine or whiskey, but the pairing will depend on the age of the Gruyère. The important aspect of pairing is to achieve balance of flavor, as the cheese should not overpower the drink or the drink should not bury the flavor of the cheese.

Pairing Gruyère and Beer

Gruyère pairs well with brown ales or amber ales, which have a nutty, caramel flavor or Czech pilsners which are crisp with a hint of caramel sweetness from the malt and a slightly spicy bitterness from the Saaz hops.

Aged Gruyère goes well with a stronger and maltier doppelbock or a Belgium dubbel. Smoked Gruyère is a good pairing with Bock beer which has a strong toasted flavor or a smoked porter.

Pairing Gruyère and Wine

Gruyère with its mild nutty flavor and sweet fruity taste is a good pairing with Champagne, Cava, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chianti Classico. A slightly smoked Gruyère, will complement a Grenache, Zinfandel or Shiraz which have spicy notes and fruity flavors.

An aged Gruyère with a more complex nutty flavor goes well with a Chardonnay, Riesling or Tawny Port wine.

Pairing Gruyère and Whiskey

Gruyère with its combination of nutty and sweet flavor pairs well with single malt scotch from Speyside which tend to be sweet with notes of caramel. An aged Gruyère goes well with an aged bourbon or rye whiskey or a Highland scotch with more intense but delicate flavors, while a smoked Gruyère is a good pairing with a peated scotch or whiskey.


References

Vitamin K2 And The Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Kate Rheaume-Bleue

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