The first time I ordered a hero in NYC over a decade ago the guy behind the deli counter asked me if I wanted “Swiss cheese.” I’m thinking at this point wow this is terrific I’m traveling many thousands of miles away and I get something offered which I’m totally familiar with - Swiss cheese. To my surprise the so-called “Swiss cheese” in my sandwich had nothing to do with the cheese I grew up with except for the holes in it (very much like the stereotypical Swiss were a mouse houses in the Tom & Jerry cartoon).
(really good Emmenthaler "Swiss" cheese)
It took me a while – actually a couple of years -- to realize that Swiss cheese had nothing to do with cheese from Switzerland. Growing up in Austria cheese from Switzerland such as Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Appenzeler was a staple on our cheese board. Many cheeses from Switzerland are raw milk cheese meaning the milk does not get pasteurized and only gently heated in the cheese making process. This helps to retain the excellent milk flavor of the healthy cow, which absolutely shines in the cheese.
When I think of Swiss cheese I think of the Ricola candy commercial where a guy plays the alp horn with a beautiful mountainous alpine panorama in the background. I can tell you from my own experience working in Switzerland for a brief stint it’s absolutely true. The “Schwyzer Braunvieh” or Swiss brown cows roamed and grazed on herb inflected saturated grass with their sonorous bells ringing gently.
Terroir of cheese
Small production cheese making is an art and needs relatively simple equipment - I have even made some at home myself. The quality of the grass on which the cows feed infuses the flavor of the milk and this makes or break the flavor of the cheese. Another important factor is the cheese maker who may follow tradition and local customs and allows the surrounding air do the trick and age naturally in the caves.
In our restaurant Little Cheese Pub we often have people eyeing the Swiss cheeses selections, one of which is Gourmino Emmenthaler which is the original “Swiss” cheese aged at least 6 months allowing the flavors to peak. This Gourmino Emmenthaler has a natural nuttiness with a spicy flavor and pleasant medium texture, easy to cut.
(a serious layer of cheese made in Switzerland in this hero)
It really is a hero
One of the counterparts produced here in the US is Sur Choix Gruyere which is similarly aged and made from raw cow’s milk cheese in a truthful artisan way. I have been featuring these cheeses as daily specials in a hero between layers of freshly baked poppy seed buns which add a little texture and simply lettuce and tomatoes. With these cheeses you can hold the salt, oil, pepper and mayo because the cheese is awesome and needs no additions.
So come to Little Cheese Pub to get a real hero with Cheese from Switzerland.