Emmental Cheese FAQ: 13 Most Burning Questions Answered

emmental cheese

Emmental Cheese FAQ: 13 Most Burning Questions Answered

In America, cheeses similar to Emmental are typically sold under the label of Swiss cheese. In reality, it’s a tad bit more complicated: Emmental cheese is certainly Swiss cheese, but not all Swiss cheese is Emmental cheese, even if it is the one that pops up in everyone’s minds.

In the following article, we’ll be answering questions about the Emmental cheese people on the internet seem to be seeking answers to the most often. No filler, no wasting anyone’s time. If you have a question about Emmental cheese, simply scroll through the article, and you might find the one you need here.

What is Emmental Cheese?

Emmental (also called Emmentaler, Emmenthal, or Emmenthaler) is a type of Swiss cheese made from cow’s milk. Its origins have been traced to the 13th-century canton of Bern, which makes it Switzerland’s oldest known cheese variety. 

The Emmental variety produced in the region nowadays is called Emmentaler AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée, the Swiss version of Protected Designation of Origin or PDO) and is made exclusively from grass-fed unpasteurized cow milk.  

Texture: Emmental is a smooth semi-hard cheese with a thick and solid, non-edible natural rind. The paste is interspersed with large holes (called eyes) throughout. In the past, eyes were seen as an imperfection, but nowadays, they’re considered one of the prime characteristics of a high-quality Emmental cheese. 

Color: Emmental cheese color varies from very pale, almost ivory, yellow to a more bright, stark yellow hue. The more the cheese ages, the darker it gets. It’s particularly noticeable with the rind, though you won’t be able to tell if the cheese has been aged using the wax-coating method. 

Types: Emmentaler AOP is typically separated into three distinct types based on the length of its aging process, and other Emmental producers tend to follow suit. Classic Emmental is aged for at least four months, Réserve Emmental takes at least eight months to age, and Premier Cru must be aged for no less than fourteen months. There’s also a separate category for cave-aged Emmental cheese, which is aged for around twelve months and develops a more stark, dark-brown rind.

Flavor Profile: The most forward flavor notes of Emmental cheese are nuttiness and fruitiness. The younger the cheese, the more present fruity and sweet flavor notes are, with nuttiness taking a backseat. As the cheese matures, nuttiness becomes the primary note of the flavor profile, with sweetness slowly disappearing. Emmental has no acidic notes and very low salt content. 

What Does Emmental Cheese Taste Like?

Classic Emmental has a mild, somewhat sweet taste with a well-pronounced flavor of ripe fruits and a slightly nutty undertone, with no tanginess. 

Réserve Emmental is also mellow but has a more robust taste. It’s richer than Classic Emmental, slightly buttery, and has achieved more balance between fruity and nutty flavors, with nuttiness becoming more distinct. 

Emmental Grand Cru still has a fruity aroma and hints of sweetness, but nuttiness starts to become the primary flavor note due to the long aging process. It also has distinct grassiness and floral hints. 

Cave-aged Emmental cheese is primarily nutty, with hazelnuts and walnuts being the primary flavor and aroma notes. But it’s also a bit grassy and a bit sweet, though the sweetness takes a backseat, same as Grand Cru. 

Regardless of how long the aging process lasts, Emmental cheese remains on the sweeter side with hardly any salt and no sour, acidic notes in the flavor profile.

Does Emmental Cheese Taste Bitter?

No, Emmental cheese is very mellow, with not a hint of bitterness (or sourness, on that note). 

In fact, if you notice bitter notes in your Emmental cheese, it’s likely indicative of deficient quality, as authentic Swiss Emmental is not supposed to be sharp or bitter even when aged for over a year. On the contrary, it’s supposed to be mellow with an ever-present slight sweetness. 

Why does Emmental Have Holes in It?

The holes in the Emmental cheese paste are called eyes, and they’re a result of hay particles and bacteria interacting during the fermentation process. 

Propionic acid or lactic acid used during the Emmental production process tends to cause carbon dioxide to form bubbles. These bubbles then become trapped and create holes in the cheese paste. But the more sterile the environment, the lesser the number of holes and the smaller their size. 

Is Emmental Cheese Like Cheddar?

It’s surprising to see this question on the list of most frequently searched questions since Emmental and Cheddar have very little, if anything, in common. Where Emmental is smooth and semi-hard, Cheddar is hard and somewhat crumbly. Where Emmental is sweet and nutty, with no acidity and hardly any salt, Cheddar is tangy, salty, and earthy. Even the young, Mild Cheddar cheese that has a softer and smoother texture and has yet to develop any complexity in the flavor is generally too tangy and salty to be compared to Emmental cheese.

What is the Difference Between Emmental and Swiss Cheese?

The term is often used interchangeably, especially in America, where Emmental-like cheeses tend to get labeled straight up as “Swiss cheese.” While it’s technically accurate (apart from the fact that Switzerland-based creameries don’t usually label their products as “Swiss cheese”), it creates the false image of Emmental as the default Swiss cheese variety.

In reality, Emmental is only one of the famous types of Swiss cheese, with many others like Gruyere, Tilsiter, Raclette, and L’Etivaz sharing the label. 

TLDR: Emmental is a type of Swiss cheese, but not the only one; there are many others, despite what clever marketing would have you believe.

Does Emmental Melt? How Do You Melt Emmental Cheese?

Despite having a semi-hard texture, Emmental has excellent melting qualities. While many cheese varieties in the semi-hard family (halloumi, paneer, goat cheese, queso panela, etc.) won’t melt either on direct or indirect heat, Emmental melts easily and smoothly, with rarely developing any lumps.

The easiest way to melt the cheese would be in a pan, stove-top since it would allow you to control the temperature and avoid burning the cheese. If adding to a dish you’re cooking, then you don’t have to worry much about melting the cheese. Just stick it into the dish, and it’ll melt. Pre-grating, shredding or cubing it will go a long way towards avoiding any lumps of unmelted cheese. 

What is Emmental Cheese Used For?

Its great melting qualities and mellow flavor make Emmental one of the go-to versatile cheese varieties. It’s often used in sauces and fondue, items that require smooth melted cheese without any lumps. But it can be used in most capacities one might think of:

  • Baking into gratins, casseroles, quiches, and pasta bakes.
  • Hot sandwich filling (from classic grilled cheese to paninis loaded with meat and vegetables).
  • Egg-based dishes like omelets and frittatas. 
  • A flavoring ingredient in soups, salads, pasta, pizza, and more.

And it also makes a great addition to a cheese board, particularly as a dessert cheese paired with firm and slightly tart fruit like pears, apples, and berries.

What Meat Goes with Emmental Cheese?

Emmental’s mellow but buttery and nutty flavor goes well with most cured meats. More delicate varieties like Genoa salami and prosciutto Crudo are the most optimal pairings since they greatly balance out the cheese flavor. 

Still, you can pair Emmental with more robust and spicy cured meats like soppressata, chorizo, or pepperoni just as easily. In fact, in more complex dishes, with multiple other ingredients, using more robustly flavored cured meats might be a better option, while more delicate meats work better as a light snack with crackers or fresh and soft white bread.

It depends on whether you want Emmental cheese to be more well-expressed or accentuate the meat. Both approaches have their place.

Does Emmental Cheese Expire? How Long Can it Last?

Yes, Emmental cheese can expire even if you properly store it and follow all recommendations on prolonging its shelf life. If you’re purchasing a vacuum-sealed chunk of Emmental cheese produced by a large commercial creamery, you likely already have a guideline on how to store it and by what date to use it. 

The label will have a “best by date” or “expiration date” printed on it, sometimes along with instructions on how to store it. The date can vary from six months up to two years, depending on the ingredients and packaging process. 

Do remember that if the packaging is damaged, the shelf life of your cheese dramatically decreases, so carefully examine the cheese package, especially if you purchase it online, and immediately contact the manufacturer if you notice any damage

Once unsealed, Emmental cheese will last between four and eight weeks if properly stored in the refrigerator, and more if you’re willing to sacrifice certain aspects of flavor and texture quality to prolong the shelf life of the cheese. 

How Long Can Emmental Cheese Sit Out? Is It Safe to Eat Cheese That Was Left Out Overnight?

Emmental cheese can safely sit out for up to four hours without risking bacterial growth and spoilage. The FDA does warn that you should avoid keeping perishable items out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, but semi-hard and hard cheeses have the advantage of being sturdier than most other perishable items (like meat and fish) and thus lasting longer. 

But the situation may change depending on temperature and humidity. Extreme heat and high humidity increase the chances of quicker spoilage, so don’t risk leaving the cheese for more than two hours.

In other words: no, it’s not safe to eat Emmental cheese that was left out overnight. Especially in warmer months.

Does Emmental Cheese Need to be Refrigerated?

Yes, Emmental cheese needs to be refrigerated. If it’s not, there’s a high risk of bacterial growth that will make the cheese unsafe for consumption. 

Simply wrap the cheese in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and keep it in the refrigerator. If you go an extra step and wrap it in either wax or parchment paper first, you increase the chances of preserving its flavor qualities and keeping fit for consumption for a little longer.

Can I Freeze Emmental Cheese?

Yes, you can freeze Emmental cheese. Keep it in an airtight container, and it should be good for additional six to nine months.

However, do so while understanding that defrosting will affect cheese texture, likely making it either rubbery or dry. Thawed Emmental will still melt beautifully and is thus fit for cooking, but it might not be a pleasant snack raw.

Check Out the Yummy Bazaar’s Cheese Store Assortment for More:

Yummy Bazaar keeps a carefully curated assortment of gourmet-quality cheeses from some of the world’s best producers at our online cheese store. Pay a visit to choose a favorite, be it Emmental, other types of Swiss cheese, or something else entirely. We’ll deliver your chosen option right to your doorstep.

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