World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a cheese in season.
This week Appenzeller from Switzerland.
Country: Switzerland 🇨🇭
Made from: Cow’s milk
Texture: semi-hard, firm, open and smooth
Taste: Fruity, spicy, tangy
Aging: 6 weeks to 8 months
Appenzeller cheese is a hard cow's-milk cheese produced in the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland. One of Switzerland’s oldest cheeses, Appenzeller dates back to the times of Charlemagne (Charles the Great). Appenzeller has a spicy and fermented fruit aroma. This cheese is firm and dense, yet retains a certain suppleness. A few peanut-sized holes are scattered throughout the yellow interior.
The production is highly regulated and is limited to only four cantons: Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden, plus parts of St. Gallen and Thurgau. One thing that sets Appenzeller cheese apart from its other Swiss counterparts is the distinctive herbal brine that is rubbed on the cheese before it begins the aging process. The brine, sometimes incorporating wine or cider, is applied to the wheels of cheese while they cure, which flavors and preserves the cheese while promoting the formation of a rind.
The purported ingredients for the brine include cloves, tarragon, juniper, rosemary, sage and white wine. But the full list and precise measurements remain a secret.
There are about 60 cheese dairies in the Appenzeller region, and local farmers who have only 20 to 30 cows each deliver milk to them twice daily. This is truly a small-batch product. After each delivery, the master cheesemaker then skims part of the raw milk to ensure the closely-monitored fat content of the finished product. The liquid is then poured into 6,000-liter vats, where it’s heated and stirred, and finally rennet and lactic acid bacteria are added. After 30 or 40 minutes of heating and stirring with a cheese harp, the small grains of curd separate from the whey. The concoction is then placed in a round mold that will create a 7-kilogram wheel.
Appenzeller has a documented history of at least 700 years. Today, about 75 dairies produce it, each with a different recipe for their brine wash. The cheese is straw-colored, with tiny holes and a golden rind. It has a strong smell and a nutty or fruity flavor, which can range from mild to tangy, depending on how long it is aged.
Three types are sold:
"Classic". Aged three to four months, mildly spicy. The wheels are wrapped in a silver label.
"Surchoix". Aged four to six months, strongly spicy. Gold label.
"Extra". Aged six months or longer, extra spicy. Black label.
How to enjoy it
Appenzeller is an extremely popular and versatile cheese, whether as part of a cheese platter, paired with a few slices of apple or pear, or as part of a cheese fondue. This cheese melts beautifully and is often used as a topping for potatoes, salads or pasta dishes. Appenzeller is a good companion to Riesling or hard cider. If you prefer red, choose a fruity variety such as a Pinot Noir or a Rhone.
Source: cheese.com, Wikipedia, cheese.com, cheeseconnoisseur.com, eatswitzcheese.ca, Swissfinewine.ch