The Traveling Gruyere Wheel
December 23, 2008
Vegetarian – Suitable Cheese
Both were displayed with pride and eventually both were cracked, cut, wrapped and sold. Both cheeses, even at close to $20 a pound, are well liked and need little “selling”. Their quality and popularity sell them easily enough.
However, the story of this particular Gruyere wheel is quite interesting.
According to The Lady, the grocery chain originally purchased it two years ago to be used as a “prop” in their first Cheese Kiosk. The Lady thinks it was a store in Portland but she is not sure. As more kiosks opened in the chain, this wheel made its way from store to store; used for a few months and then sent on its way. Eventually, it made its way to The Lady’s Cheese Kiosk. The local store “lore” had it sitting in the trunk of one Company Manager for a couple of weeks. (Thank goodness, the weather is cool around here most of the time…)
It was dirty and it smelled like really dirty socks according to The Lady. When customers walked by, especially children, they turned their noises up and the children often wanted to know who had…well you know how kids are…
After a few months, The Lead Cheese Steward decided it was time to crack the wheel open and see it was salvagable. First they had to clean it, using kosher salt and a lot of something called “elbow grease”. The Lady said the cleaning took about three hours before it was ready to be opened. The Lady and her Lead used the same tools of picks and chisels that are used on a Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel and began the task of cracking it in half.
As it cracked in half, they knew they had a winner; the aroma was intoxicating. Both of them tasted it and thought they had died and gone to cheese heaven…it was divine according to The Lady. And it was filled with those flavor crystals that come only with age.
Keep in mind, Emmi cave-ages Gruyere for at least a year before releasing the wheel for sale. This particular wheel had wandered from store-to-store in the Northwest before landing at The Lady’s Kiosk. This baby was at least three years old.
They cut it into quarters and sold the first quarter in less than twenty-four hours. They sold the entire wheel in less than two weeks. The wheel weighed close to eighty pounds…you do the math.
The Lady brought two pieces home for The Man and the Cat. It was like nothing I have ever tasted with the exception of Epoisses (goes without saying…). It is nutty, crumbly, melts in your mouth…one fine cheese. And those flavor crystals just burst and leave you wanting more. As usual, I had to fight The Man two falls out of three to get my fair share…geez…
Although from Switzerland, this is not a Swiss cheese in the “normal” sense of the word.
I give Gruyere 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).
Serving Suggestions: Gruyere is one of the main cheeses in “traditional” fondue (Emmenthaler is the other). You may recall, The Lady used those two cheeses in the fondue (inside the pumpkin) that she made for Thanksgiving. You can use it for cooking; especially for gratins. It is also wonderful alone, on a cracker or served with pears and apples. I had hoped for a nice pate of Rangifer tarandus to try with the Gruyere. The Lady said no. and mumbles something about someone named Rudolph and not wanting his demise on her soul.
Wine Pairings: Because Gruyere has a robust taste; you should pair it with an equally robust, heart wine such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or a good quality Burgundy.
Beer Pairings: A malty Bock such as Munich Dunkel or Oktoberfest, also a holiday beer with fruity and spicy overtones would pair well with Gruyere.
Source: Cow’s Part skim milk.