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Emmenthaler Is the 'Everybody Loves Raymond' of Cheeses

Emmenthaler is the Everybody Loves Raymond of all cheeses: it's God-awful, and yet people seem to really like it. Holes are normally considered a sign of a defect in the cheese-making process, but with this stuff, it's the opposite.
Photo by Janelle Jones

Welcome back to Learning to Love the Stink, our cheese column by Charlotte Kamin, owner and cheesemonger—yes, that's a real term–at the Bedford Cheese Shop. She's here to demystify the stinkiest of cheese terms, varieties, and makers in the biz to help you feel and sound like a boss the next time you roll up to the stinky cheese counter.

Every so often, cheesemongers encounter some really intriguing questions from our lovely patrons. For example, "Do you know that one white cheese from France? I had it when I was backpacking through the Loire 20 years ago. It was soooo good." Eyes rolls back in their sockets, a slight moan is emitted, and it's like watching a G-rated porn: boring and a tad awkward.

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People love holes. They love to fill them with body parts, or smears, or just to take a moment and peer through the proverbial looking glass into a perceived other existence. Emmenthaler is the quintessential cheese with holes.

Or, there is the great and ubiquitous "Do you have Swiss cheese?" which can either be met with the real answer ("Why yes, we probably have close to 70 different cheeses from Switzerland at the moment"), or the more gracious response, "Oh, do you mean Emmenthaler?"

People love holes. They love to fill them with body parts, or smears, or just to take a moment and peer through the proverbial looking glass into a perceived other existence. Holes are great: they remind us that nothing in life is solid, that there is always a way out, and that things with holes— such as doughnuts—are often edible and delicious. Emmenthaler is the quintessential cheese with holes.

Holes are normally considered a sign of a defect in the cheese-making process. Certain bacterias that are part of the coagulation process begin to consume the lactic acid in the fermenting milk, which belches out carbon dioxide. This action creates little craters, a.k.a. "eyes." If you were to split a cheese that had this issue occur in the aging process, you would be met with the slightly sour scent of both manure and another smell kind of like the breath of a nursing baby: sour milk. In Emmenthaler, three different bacterias are added during the cheesemaking process to encourage this process of, shall we say, "aeration."

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It's the Everybody Loves Raymond of the cheese world: Godawful, and yet people really seem to like it.

Emmenthaler hails from a canton named Emmenthal in the central area of Switzerland. These massive wheels are about 100 pounds of pure—usually raw—cow's milk. There are hints of sweet melons and fresh cut hay under a layer of butter scent and that sour milk thing. Although it's a relatively mellow cheese, Emmenthaler is the ultimate party cheese because of its groovy holes and its all-around accessibility. It's the Everybody Loves Raymond of the cheese world: Godawful, and yet people really seem to like it.

Even though holes, cheese, and science are awesome, not all awesome things are tasty, but we can still love them anyways.

Try some and tell me what you think.

This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in December 2014.