Emmentaler cheese is a semi-hard cheese that has been manufactured in the Emmental Valley in Switzerland since the early 1200s. It is now made in France and other European countries as well as in some parts of the United States. It has the holes that are associated with most Swiss cheeses and a mild flavor that lends itself to many different recipes.
This pale yellow cheese is made by introducing three different types of bacteria. Lactobacillus, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Propionibacterium freudenreichii are blended into the cheese while it is being made. P. freudenreichii then consumes lactic acid that is expelled by the other two bacteria as the cheese ripens. It in turn releases the carbon dioxide that makes holes of varying sizes in the cheese. This is the same process that creates holes in Leerdammer, Jarlsberg, and Maasdam cheeses as well.
Emmentaler cheese is made into very large rounds that have a natural rind. They are aged for different periods of time. Classic Emmetaler is aged for just four months while the reserve quality is aged for eight months. The highest quality Emmentaler cheese is a luxurious variety called Premier Cru; this cheese is aged for 14 months in underground caves that are kept very humid. All of these are made with raw, unpasteurized cow's milk, with starter cultures, rennet, water, and salt the only added ingredients. Any Emmentaler cheese made in the United States however, must be made with pasteurized instead of raw milk.
These types of cheese are among the largest in the world, and it can take over 264 gallons of milk to make just one of the wheels that will weigh between 150 and 220 pounds when ripened. During the aging, or ripening, process, the wheels have to be turned repeatedly to ensure creaminess and an even texture. While this used to be done by hand with a great deal of effort, machines are now employed for this purpose.
This Swiss cheese variant melts well and is often used in fondues and grilled cheese sandwiches. It is also a good choice for casseroles, potato gratins, and other baked pasta and potato dishes. Emmentaler cheese can be served cold in sandwiches and subs or grated as a topping for soups, salads, and hot vegetables. It can also be added to crepes, gnocchi, and omelets. Stuffed, hard boiled eggs also taste great when a little of this cheese is added for a buttery, nutty flavor.