Learning about cheese, cheese and more cheese
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
September 18, 2019
"What makes Swiss cheese special? Learn about different types of Swiss cheese and why they are so delicious! Learn how to cut and plate cheese for tasting, and learn to assess them with pairing wine.
You will also learn to bake “Chäs-Chüechli”- traditional Swiss cheese pie that is ubiquitous in all bakeries around Zürich. This is the description of the three hour class we took tonight.
This class is led by Sherly who is a cheese sommelier."
This evening, we decided to take a cooking class at “Sherly’s Kitchen” in Zürich. Some of you will remember that we took a class there last year on how to make Black Forest Cherry Cake and a Swiss Jelly Roll. This year, we learned how to properly pair cheeses with wine as well as how to properly cut, plate, and taste cheese. As a last step, we took the remaining cheese and grated it to make a cheese pie. This is a very traditional Swiss dish.
There were 3 couples whom took the class: one from Alabama, one from Massachusetts and us.
We were presented with 7 different cheeses.
Tête de Moine
Challerhocker (evening milk)
Our lesson started with a taste of Gruyère cheese.
We held our nose and tasted. We had to describe what we tasted. Next, we had to describe the cheese without holding our nose.
Try it. It is quite fun coming up with words to describe what you are tasting.
We cut each type of cheese into pieces where we tasted and assessed them. We looked at the rind; we checked for white flecks which is crystallization from age. We checked for cracks. We smelled if it was stinky or not. We felt the rind and smelled our fingers.
We had a discussion on what type knife to use on different cheeses. Our group admitted we were using the knife for Parmesan cheese incorrectly. We used it for Brie.
We almost have too much information to impart in a simple blog. Our goal is not to make you into a sommelier, but to give you some useful tips. Trust me that we only learned enough to scrape the surface of everything that you can learn about properly serving cheese.
For instance, did you know that there is a difference between cheeses that come from the morning and the evening milking? The evening milk is fattier and that makes the cheese richer in flavors. Also, good cheeses use raw milk as pasteurization will harm the good bacteria as well as the bad and that makes the cheese much blander in flavor?
Cheese needs to be served at room temperature. Leave it out 30 minutes before serving, depending on whether you live in a cold or hot climate as we do in Arizona. Put your cheese away as soon as it starts sweating.
At this point, we found out how to properly plate the cheese. This is done by first sorting the cheeses from mild to aromatic using the techniques described above. Remember to look, smell, and if necessary, taste a small portion. The cheeses are then cut into small pieces with every piece getting some of the “meat” and some of the rind. Place the cheese from mild to aromatic on the plate from the 6 o’clock position clockwise to the 5 o’clock position. Make sure to place your rind on the inside of the plate so that the meat is facing the person eating the cheese. In order to cleanse your palate between cheeses, place some fruits and buts in the center of the plate. Do not use citrus as this is too acidic.
Next, place a small spoonful of honey just between the last two cheeses near to the 5 o’clock position.
Now, when you taste the cheese, take a little bit in your mouth and take a sip of the white wine. Do you detect how the wine complements or detracts from the cheese. Do the same with a red wine if you have it. In general, most cheeses are drunk with white wine. However, there are some of the more aromatic cheeses that complement a good, dry red wine. A red wine full of tannins may be too overpowering for most cheese, so try and get a fruitier, drier wine.
Finally, take a little bit of the cheese and dip it into the honey. How does this change the flavor? For some of the more aromatic cheeses, you will find that it is a nice complement to the flavor. Don’t forget to cleanse the palate between cheeses with a piece of fruit. Otherwise, you will not properly enjoy the flavors as they will blend together.
To end this, remember when you stand in front of your cheese counter to look for the following things: Texture (fresh, soft, semi-soft/semi-hard, or hard), type of milk (raw, thermalized or pasteurized), type of rind (white, red, or blue), type of animal (cow, goat, or sheep). Ask the cheese monger to let you smell and taste a small piece before you buy it.
Gerkins are served with it.
This is the recipe we used to make the cheese pie. Delicious!!!!
Michael and I enjoyed the class tremendously!!!!!