He describes cheese-making as a calling that requires fastidiousness and absolute dedication. “Many Swiss cheesemakers work seven days a week for decades without a holiday,” says Näff. FARM TO FORK An identical routine is repeated every morning by Fredéric Pasquier, who runs a cheesery in the village of Gruyères in French-speaking Fribourg. Pasquier’s pride and joy is Gruyère AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegée), an earthy, complex cheese produced in the region since 1115. Judging by his near-fanatical scrubbing and constant quality checks, he takes much pride in the AOP mark, which indicates a high-quality product with deep-rooted regional origins. Kissing his two boys as they leave for school, he dips his hand into the yellowish curd and kneads the mass to check its texture. It’s thumbs-up: time to pump the contents of the vats into round moulds. Each mould is marked with the inscription ‘Le Gruyère AOP’ and the number of the dairy. “Each wheel can be traced to the very cow the milk came from,” reveals Pasquier. ROBOTS IN THE CELLAR Although Gruyère is an artisanal cheese, creative experimentation is a definite no-no. “People often ask ‘Why don’t you add nuts or herbs?’ With AOP products, you follow strict conventions. You don’t innovate,” says straight-faced Pasquier. “But the cheese reacts differently every day
Fondue is the easiest, most sociable of foods, which many Swiss families enjoy at least once a week. If friends drop by after hours, no panic. You can pick up a fondue kit from an automat. These unusual vending machines are found next door to many cheese dairies in Switzerland. Day-old bread is best for dipping in your fondue, as fresh bread crumbles easily. According to local tradition, men who drop their bread in the pot have to run around the house naked. Women have to kiss every man at the table.
The stronger Appenzeller cheeses are aged 10 months. OCTOBER 2016