As a true blue lover of blue cheese, I always defaulted to the world’s most celebrated: Roquefort, Stilton, Danish blue and Gorgonzola. Never did I give Switzerland a second thought in the blue department, and why should I? By the time Emmenthal, Gruyère, Appenzell, Vacherin Fribourgeois filled up the dairy case, there was no room for these small-yield artisanal blues. Then, a few months ago I discovered, quite out of the blue in fact, that the Swiss make several blue cheeses (and there are probably more to be discovered) and that cheese aficionados are already talking a blue streak about them.
All of the cheeses I have discovered so far are made from cow’s milk. The most well-known of these is Jersey Blue. Underneath the greyish crust is an ochre-colored cheese with a medium texture and a smoky flavor. This cheese comes from a much talked-about cheesemaker, Willi Schmid who first opened in 2006 in his hometown of Lichtensteig (Toggenburg) in St. Gallen. Four years later, his Jersey Blue won an award for best Jersey (from the Jersey cow) cheese.
The most unique blue I’ve ever seen—Jumi (its shrivelled creased appearance also earning it the name Blue-Brain cheese because of its resemblance to a brain)—is the creation of Jurg Wyss (Ju) and Mike Glauser (Mi) from the Emmenthal valley. This odd little mound sold in an enclosed plastic dome looks more like a moldy scoop of ice-cream than cheese.
Jumi manager Marcello Tomi says (in a Youtube video) “It’s a living ecosystem of good bacteria, yeast and mold.” The dome allows the cheese to continue its maturing process (about six months) as the cheese slowly darkens and shrivels. Cut into it, though, and a pale creamy texture is revealed. It’s mild and a bit salty to the taste. This is a rare treat indeed and apparently the only place outside of Switzerland it can be found is at the Borough Market in London.
The canton of Fribourg—renowned for some of Switzerland’s most famous cheeses—Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois—also produces a blue known among locals including the finer chefs. Bleu de Grangeneuve is a lightly blue-veined cheese, mild in taste, with a soft to medium texture.
Bleu de la Lenk, a sparsely veined yellowish cheese in a brownish crust is similar in taste and texture to the Grangeneuve.
The last Swiss blue I tasted was Bleu de Neuchâtel, also known as Bleuchâtel. A pale cheese with soft streaks and dimples, this was my personal favorite for its slightly sweeter flavor.
The Swiss blues, though recent creations, are already being noticed among the cheese connoisseurs of the world. I’m thinking it won’t be long before these noble blue-veins earn their place alongside their iconic cousins, Emmenthal, Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois. ◊
These cheeses can be found in Geneva at Globus or at La Halle de Rive.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to learn more about our activities and excursions, visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/