GRUYERE & GJETOST - Cheese Plate of the Month (August 2013)
Okay, other than having seven letters and beginning with 'G,' these two cheeses could not be more different, IMO.
Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy and complex.
I chose Gruyere because I truly love it and the many ways to enjoy it. I am hoping to get new ideas over the month.
I love the flavor/type/style of cheese that includes Swiss, Ementhaler, Jarlsberg, Raclette, and Gruyere cheeses. Of those, Gruyere is my favorite which is why I selected it as COTM for August 2013.
I went to Whole Foods today and picked up two different Gruyeres. I plan to stop at Trader Joe's tomorrow to see what they have to offer and then begin tasting away.
As i mentioned on the April-August COTM thread, my sweet mom just passed away. I chose Gjetost in her honor as it was her favorite cheese. She was not a cheese connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but Gjetost was her favorite cheese and it would give her joy to have others expand their horizons by giving her beloved 'peanut butter cheese' (as she called it) a try.
Gjetost is a brown Scandinavian goat cheese made from goat's milk. The cooking process turns the milk sugar into caramel, giving it a brown color and sweet flavor. Gjetost is a subtype of Brunost (literally translated, 'brown cheese.')
The brand of Gjetost most commonly sold in the US is Ski Queen. It can be found at Whole Foods and many other grocery stores (middle range to upscale). My favorite brand found in the US is Ekte Gjetost and can be purchased at Scandinavian stores and iGourmet.
Le Gruyère AOC Cavern, Cave-Aged 11 months, purchased at Star Market in Salinas, $16/lb.
After being foiled in my attempt to buy young Gruyere made with spring milks, I changed strategy to look for older, mature Gruyere in an age range of 14 to 17 months old thus made with milks from spring of LAST year. If I'm reading the product info correctly, Cavern Gruyere is first aged for two or three months, then matured in sandstone caves for a minimum of 11 months. So this cheese could be 13 months old or more old, close enough for me.
Made with raw milk, the color of my wedge is lighter than the depiction on the producer's page. The cheese has an oily mouthfeel and is mostly smooth with only a few crystals. It's less salty than I expected and has none of the nutty sweetness that I dislike in Emmenthal. Somewhat fruity and tasting of heavy cream, this is not as complex as I expected either. The darker section underneath the rind has a definite funk.
And then there was the incredible news story from Norway, January, 2013, where 59,000 pounds of Gjetost burned in a tunnel for 6 days!
I have loved gjetost all of my life, but have never really understood the description "caramel." Yes,I have probably used the term myself to try to get a handle on the cheese, as I have described it to someone else. I love caramel topping dribbled all over my ice cream, but I would not enjoy melted gjetost. Its an acquired taste that I grew up with. School lunch sandwiches on plain white Wonder bread- nothing exotic. I had an aunt who always described it as a big brown block eraser. Maybe a bit tastier. I have a brother-in-law who would gladly eat the eraser before touching any Gjetost, though.
Okay, I've collected some gruyere samples. My first go at tasting and comparing was done naked....no flavor pairings or even crackers. Here's what I've tried and what I thought about them:
1. Trader Joe's raw milk Le Gruyere, aged over 120 days. $11.99/lb
This had a decent flavor...nice balance of salty and sweet, but the texture was not as nice as the ones I purchased at WF.
2. Emmi Gruyere Kaltbach, raw milk, cave aged (didn't say how long), purchased at While Foods for $21.99/lb.
I expected that I would like this the best as it was most expensive and it was cave aged. Not so. The first taste was nice...pleasantly salty and a bit stronger than the other three. Then I tasted what I can only describe as a barnyardy type of aftertaste. I love strong cheeses but when I get a whiff of that barnyardy aroma/flavor, it just doesn't appeal to me. I will try this again, pairing it with something to see how that works...if I still get the same flavor, it will have to be used in a mac n cheese or something.
3. Emmi Le Gruyere raw milk, aged over 150 days, purchased at Whole Foods for about $13.99/lb.
This is my favorite so far. It is really mellow, with a nice texture and a pleasing balance of salty and sweet. I will be going back for more!
4. Mifroma pasteurized Gruyere, don't know how long it was aged, purchased at a Kroger grocery store for $11.99/lb.
Eeeww...this was like eating soft rubber. The flavor and texture reminded me of American sliced cheese, only with a Swiss flavor, if that makes any sense at all. Would this be because it was pasteurized? Thankfully, my less adventurous family members will be happy to finish it off for me. It was very disappointing.
I am still on the lookout for more options to try. This has been a lot of fun so far and it is still early in the month!
On Thursday I headed over to the Carmel Cheese Shop which has provided some of the best condition cheeses I've enjoyed in this country. I asked if there was any younger Gruyere made from spring time milk. The reply was that Americans prefer older Gruyere (aged 6 months or longer), so no, not at this time.
I'm wondering if this is generally true.
I love this choice for COTM! I am quite new the Swiss family of cheeses as it's been one of few cheeses which I generally dislike in all forms. However, when I discovered Raclette cheese which might be my current favorite cheese, the cheesemonger at my local Whole Foods began suggesting other cheeses from the region. My first venture was Comte which I was shocked that I thoroughly enjoyed so it seemed perhaps I don't hate all Swiss cheeses. I had always assumed that Gruyere tasted "swiss-y" but decided to give it a try. the taste I had in the store of a an Emmi reserve was pretty good so I bought some to try at home. It was also very good. I found it to be fairly sharp and for some reason reminded me of Parmesan. I'd love to try more in this family and am interested to read the comments and thoughts posted here, although I still seem to hate anything labeled as "Swiss cheese."
I'm with ya on the hating anything labeled as Swiss cheese! Just not my thing. And tangentially, can you imagine labeling something as French cheese or Italian cheese? But there are Swiss cheeses that are worth seeking out. I enjoy cave aged Gruyere which is much stronger. And on the other end of the spectrum, Jarlsberg is a lovely cheese in sandwiches, sort of a gateway Swiss if you will : -). It's always in our fridge.
For me the key to enjoying gjetost is a cheese plane. The slices really need to be thin! http://www.jarlsberg.com/products/ski...
Great point! I think the Gruyere I bought was the Emmi special reserve which I think might be aged but I'll have to check. Do you find it mellows when melted, when eaten raw I just kept thinking Parm which is odd. I can't remember if it was Jarlsberg, but it sounds familiar as something I've tried and remember a big hit of "Swiss." Now that I've discovered the others maybe I'll give it a try.
I'm not a huge fan of "Swiss" cheese, generally, as I find it has an unpleasant lingering sweetness I don't like in cheeses (guess gjetost is out for me).
BUT, Gruyere's a different animal. If you can get your hands on some Chällerhocker, give it a shot. It is probably my favorite Swiss cheese these days. Very complex.
I don't think it would mellow much but I don't recall ever melting cave aged gruyere as it gets eaten too fast, especially if my brother is around! I can totally see where you get a parmiggiano feel from it, at least texture wise.
Jarlsberg is way milder (it's sometimes referred to as baby Swiss) than gruyere so I wouldn't say it's a big hit of Swiss. It has a nutty, sweet taste to it.
Fun article on the "gruyere war" between Switzerland and France: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/...