Cave-Aged Le Gruyère AOP
Kaltbach Cave-Aged Le Gruyère AOP (Appellation d'Origine Protégée - or Protected Designation of Origin) Records of cheese making in the Swiss Region of La Gruyère dates from 1115. Gruyère Cheese received official recognition in 1762 when the word was entered into the dictionary of the Académie Française. The cheese received a Controlled Designation of Origin (AOC) in 2001 and an AOP in 2011 for all of Europe.
The AOP specifies that milk for Gruyère AOP Cheese must come from cows fed natural forage - grass in the summer and hay in the winter with no additives or ensilage. The farmers must deliver milk to the designated cheese dairy twice a day. The morning and evening milk are combined in a copper vat, left to settle all night and then starter cultures are added to the milk followed by rennet extracted from calves' stomachs to curdle the milk. Once the curd has set, large knives cut it into granules and then the vats are heated to 135 degrees F for 40 to 45 minutes. The vats are then pumped into round molds and pressed by up to 1984 lbs of pressure for about 20 hours. After pressing each wheel is removed from the mold and brined for 24 hours. The cheese-makers then stores the wheels in their cellars for three months. After three months, the wheels are moved to maturing cellars (caves d’affinage) and aged for 5 to 18 months at 90% humidity and 59 degrees F. The wheels are periodically turned over and brushed with salt water.
Kaltbach Cave-Aged Le Gruyère AOP is made from raw grass-fed cows milk and is aged for 3 months at the dairy and at least 9 months in sandstone caves in the Kaltbach (Lucerne) region of Switzerland. It is a hard cheese with light brown crust with mold marks and an aged ivory, cream colored paste. It has a rich aroma - a little earthy, funky, with some sweat and a hint of baby vomit tempered by fruit and nuts. The smooth texture is slightly crumbly with a delightful crystalline crunch. The taste is milder than the aroma leaning more to buttery and nutty with a light tang, some dried fruit, a light meaty note and a hint of tea-like bitterness. It coats the mouth with a pleasant linger. I am eating the cheese with a Fat Orange Cat Brewco I Don't Like Mondays. It is a New England IPA loaded with citrus flavors and aromas supported by rich bread crusty malt and finishing with an assertive pithy bitterness. The beer's citrus notes play well with the cheese and bring out some of the cheese's fruit notes. The malt flavors help dig out the cheese's nuttiness and the cheese's butteryness tones down the beer's bitterness slightly while the bitter notes in the cheese extend along with the creaminess pleasantly extend the beer's bitterness. With the beer you probably don't need the crackers. The cheese is everything you want - crystalline crunch, flavor packed and rating at least 85. The pairing with the beer rates 88. This cheese will also go well with bock beers, French ciders and semi-dry to dry meads. Serve the cheese with fruit, use it to make scalloped potatoes, or shave it onto salads.