What is alpine-style cheese?
Alpine-style cheese is a family of semi-firm to hard cheeses that originate in the mountains of Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, and northern Italy. Alpine-style cheese is made from the milk of animals, usually cows, that have grazed their way through alpine meadows up and down the mountains throughout the year, producing high-quality, high butterfat milk that results in highly complex and nuanced flavors when pressed into cheese. Alpine-style cheese is traditionally made in large wheels that enable longer shelf life and provide more stability as the cheese is transported down the mountain.
How is alpine-style cheese made?
Alpine-style cheese is typically made by heating milk in huge copper vats over a fire. After the milk curds are separated, they're reheated to a higher temperature and pressed to get rid of excess moisture, which allows the cheese to age for several years. Alpine-style cheeses tend to use little salt, as the cheeses were made in mountainside huts and any ingredients would have had to be carted up the mountain.
Why does alpine-style cheese have holes?
Alpine-style cheeses are famous for their holes, which can run from tiny cracks to large, marble-sized openings. These are the byproduct of carbon dioxide produced by bacteria that thrive on the low-salt, low-acid environment of alpine-style cheeses. Carbon dioxide gas is released during the cheesemaking process and, as the cheese hardens, the bubbles become permanent holes.