Did you know that Emmentaler AOP matures much longer than most other cheeses? A wheel of Emmentaler AOP spends at least 120 days in the cheese cellar before being sold. But what is maturing cheese all about, and why is affinage so important?
Emmentaler AOP matures in a cheese cellar for at least 120 days. That is much longer than most other cheeses. We know it takes time to achieve the perfect flavour. That is why Emmentaler AOP is only sold after four months of maturing in the AOP region. A Emmentaler AOP is fully matured after eight to twelve months. But there are varieties that rest a bit longer in the cool environment of the cheese cellar. For example, Emmentaler AOP URTYP® is matured to perfection after up to 15 months. And some varieties take even longer. A wheel of Emmentaler AOP can be stored and matured for up to 24 or even 30 months. This is only possible thanks to the extraordinary quality of the milk and the cheesemaking process.
Emmentaler AOP is known all over the world. It is popular because of its unique taste, its exquisite quality and its distinctive holes – all characteristics that the cheese owes to its unusually long maturing period and the special care provided by the cheesemakers.
Why does cheese need to mature?
The longer a wheel of Emmentaler AOP is left to mature, the stronger its flavour becomes. Emmentaler AOP is sold as mild when it is at least four months old, and as mature from eight months. It is sold as extra-mature after a maturing period of twelve months.
Emmentaler AOP URTYP® takes at least 12 to 15 months to become perfectly matured, and it spends at least 7 of those months in a special humid cellar.
Did you know that the distinctive holes of Emmentaler AOP are created during the maturing process? To find out more about the secret of the holes, see our article “How does the cheese get its holes?”.
How is the cheese matured in the cellar?
A wheel of Emmentaler AOP is matured for at least 120 days: first in the fermentation cellar, then in the storage cellar.
The fermentation cellar’s temperature of 19-24°C triggers propionic acid fermentation in the cheese. This causes carbon dioxide gas to form, which is unable to escape, so it forms the distinctive holes that Emmentaler AOP is famous for. The holes reach the correct size after six to eight weeks. At this point, the wheels are transferred to the much cooler storage cellar (12°C). The lower temperature halts the hole formation process and the cheese can now rest and continue to mature.
What is the temperature for maturing the cheese?
In the fermentation cellar, the temperature is about 19-24°C with a humidity of 70-90%. The storage cellar is much cooler. Here, the thermometer shows a temperature of only about 12°C.
What are the different levels of maturity?
Because different varieties of original Emmentaler AOP have different maturing periods, they fall into eight categories or levels of maturity. Every Emmentaler AOP develops its own unique flavour, which can range from nutty and mild to strong and tangy. For example, Emmentaler AOP is sold as mild after maturing for at least four months.
What is affinage and why is it so important?
Affinage is the term that cheesemakers use for maturing or ageing cheese. Throughout the entire maturing and ageing period, each individual wheel of Emmentaler AOP is cared for regularly and turned on a weekly basis – even though it can weigh up to 120 kg!
Only after four months of continuous quality controls does the cheese undergo grading. It must achieve a minimum of 18 out of 20 points (class 1) to be approved for sale. To achieve this, the cheese must have impeccable curds, flavour, holes, external appearance and shelf life – in other words, it must meet all the requirements set out the in the Emmentaler Switzerland functional specification document.