One of Switzerland’s most beloved exports, its “Swiss” cheese, was once given as a wedding gift.
The great gastronomic adventure of Emmental (commonly called “Swiss”) cheese began in the 15th Century, when rennet was introduced to the process of milking: it’s properties as a coagulant made it possible to obtain a fattier cheese that could be conserved for a longer time.
In the 18th Century, cheese production had reached its peak and many variants became available on in foreign markets. But exportation was blocked at the beginning of World War I, in order to ensure provisions for Swiss citizens. Between 1950 and 1985, under the aegis of the Swiss Confederation Cheese-makers Union, the production of Emmental reached its maximum levels: 58 million tons.
But in the early nineties, the federal aid for exportation was cut. This was a hard blow for a cheese that, in 1542 was already considered a jewel of gastronomy and that in 1557 was even commonly given as a wedding gift.
Many cheese makers were forced to close their doors and others were forced to modernize their companies, founding a consortium, Emmental Switzerland. The comeback was quick, however: in 2007, the 193 surviving cheesmakers produced 31,000 tons of holey-cheese – whose name, Emmental comes from the Vale d’Emme – compared to the 933 producers who, in 1930, only created 26,000 tons.
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