Swiss cheese is a generic name in North America for several related varieties of cheese which resemble the Swiss Emmental. Some types of Swiss cheese have a distinctive appearance, as the blocks of the cheese are riddled with holes known as “eyes.” Swiss cheese has a piquant, but not very sharp, taste. Swiss cheese without eyes is known as “blind.”
Three types of bacteria are used in the production of Emmental cheese: Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus, Lactobacillus (Lactobacillus helveticus or Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus), and Propionibacterium (Propionibacterium freudenreichii subspecies shermani). In a late stage of cheese production, the propionibacteria consume the lactic acid excreted by the other bacteria and release acetate, propionic acid, and carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide slowly forms the bubbles that develop the “eyes.” The acetate and propionic acid give Swiss its nutty and sweet flavor.
In general, the larger the eyes in a Swiss cheese, the more pronounced its flavor because a longer fermentation period gives the bacteria more time to act. This poses a problem, however, because cheese with large eyes does not slice well and comes apart in mechanical slicers. As a result, industry regulators have reduced the eye size necessary for a Swiss cheese to receive the Grade A stamp.
Baby Swiss and Lacy Swiss are two varieties of US Swiss cheeses. Both have small holes and a mild flavor. Baby Swiss is made from whole milk, and Lacy Swiss is made from low fat milk.
The largest manufacturer of Swiss cheese in the US is Brewster Dairy, located in Brewster, Ohio.
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