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Soft, creamy, and delicious — who doesn’t love some cheese (or maybe more!) to enhance the flavour of their meals? But, did you know that there are thousands of cheese varieties to choose from? Recently, 4,434 cheeses from 42 countries were judged at the 2022 edition of the World Cheese Awards.

Held at the International Conference Centre on the outskirts of the Welsh city of Newport in the United Kingdom, judges seated at the 98 judging tables unpacked and assessed cheeses of varied colours, shapes, and sizes. They declared the Le Gruyère AOP surchoix, entered by Swiss cheesemaker Vorderfultigen and affineur (refiner) Gourmino, as the world’s best cheese for 2022.

The AOP in the cheese’s name stands for the Protected Designation of Origin which recognises a level of quality granted uniquely to typical products, deeply rooted in a region that gives it a specific character and an inimitable flavour. Further, it guarantees the authenticity of products made according to traditional know-how. Gruyère, on the other hand, is a hard Swiss cheese named after the town of Gruyères in Fribourg. It is sweet and slightly salty with a flavour that varies with age.

According to CNN, it was chosen by a panel of top judges after filtering down first to 98 “super gold” champions and then selecting a final 16. They described it as a “really refined, hand-crafted cheese” that melts on the tongue and has notes of herbs, fruits and leather. A cheese with a lot of taste and bouquet.”

The second position was taken by Gorgonzola Dolce DOP, a soft, blue buttery cheese made by De’ Magi from Italy.

Production of Le Gruyère AOP surchoix

According to the official website, it is “the 100% traditional craft and expertise, passed down from generation to generation, that gives Gruyère AOP its inimitable flavour and impeccable quality”.

The cows which produce milk for Gruyère AOP are fed on natural forage – fresh grass in summer and hay in winter, with no additives. “The morning milk is merged in the copper vat with the evening milk, which was left to settle all night. The cheese maker adds starter cultures, made from whey, to mature the milk. Then he adds rennet, a natural ingredient extracted from the calf’s stomach, to curdle the milk. After 35 to 40 minutes, the vat has turned into a nice dense mass,” it added.

As the milk is not heated before curdling, it maintains all of its aromas. Next, the curd mass is cut into granules by big knives called ‘cheese harps’ which are then gradually heated up to 57 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Once the heating temperature is reached and the granules are the size of white grains, they are carefully kneaded into a mass to check the texture.

Next, the contents of the vat (grainy curd and whey) are pumped into round moulds which are marked on its outer edge with the inscription Le Gruyère AOP, along with the number of the cheese dairy. “The whey runs out and is collected in a large basin underneath. A casein marking is added to the whitish curd mass, indicating the number of the cheese wheel and of the cheese dairy. Furthermore, the manufacturing date is added to each cheese wheel. Each wheel is then pressed for about twenty hours, with an applied force of up to 900 kg,” gruyere.com stated.

The next day, the mould is put in a 22 per cent concentrated salt bath for 24 hours after removing the wheels. “Then begins the maturation. The wheels are stored for three months in the cheese maker’s cellar. He will give them almost daily care, in order to help the formation of a fine protective rind.”

After three months, the wheels are stored in maturing cellars for a slow maturation process in a 90% humidity environment and a temperature of 15° (59°F). The wheels are turned over and brushed with salt water during this time. After 5 months, they are put on the market by the maturer.

Source : Indian Express 03rd Nov 2022