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FRENCH SWITZERLAND


All the milk comes from farms within 15 miles of the dairy, said Fabienne Porchet, head of marketing at La Maison du Gruyère. The milk is slowly heated to just under 90 degrees Farenheit


and then the starter and rennet are added. “It’s very important that the cheesemaker is always looking


at the cheese,” Porchet said. After


about 40 minutes, the cheesemaker carefully


monitors the pan for a gelèe-like look and feel. Timers and thermometers


let the cheesemakers know when the cheese is


ready to be cut. “The technical things help him, but it is the hands and eyes


of the cheese maker that decide,” Porchet said. “You need to wait ‘til it’s strong enough,” said Jérôme, a


cheesemaker who has been working at La Maison du Gruyère for the past nine months. Before he came to work at La Maison du Gruyère, Jérôme


studied cheese making for three years at other dairies around Switzerland. Before students can become a professional cheesemaker,


they spend three years learning the trade by working at a dairy and taking classes one day each week. The students learn about how to taste the cheese and the proper sanitation requirements, but the process of making the cheese is the most important lesson. “Working is the best learning,” Porchet said. Often, once their three-year education is complete, a cheesemaker will stay at a dairy for several years, but rarely do


they continue making cheese for their entire career. “It is a hard work, seven days a week, but others make a life-


long career like Jacques and Nicolas, the main cheesemakers here in the demonstration cheese dairy,” Porchet said. Despite the hard work,


the Gruyère area continues to


produce cheesemakers year after year. Once the milk and rennet mixture reach the right texture,


large blades start rotating in the pan to slice up the coagulated mass. Then the mixture is heated again, this time to about 135 degrees Farenheit. Once the cheese is elastic, it is poured from the copper pans into the molds. Each pan holds a little more than 1,268 gallons of liquid and will fill 12 round molds. Each wheel of cheese is labeled with the date and the


Gruyère stamp. They are then pressed until early the next morning for a total of 16 hours. At 6 a.m., the cheesemakers arrive to load the fresh wheels


of cheese into a salt bath, where they will rest releasing their water content and absorbing salt. The cheese is then taken to the dim, humid cellar, or cave as it is known at La Maison du Gruyère, where it matures on long wooden planks for a minimum of five months. Periodically, the cheese must be turned and brushed with a


salt water solution. “Not to give it flavor,” said Porchet, but to wash the cheese


and allow it to breathe. Porchet compares this process to the way people wash their


skin. “If you don’t, your skin can’t respirate,” she said.


ALPINE LIVING 2011 | 109


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