Traditional Emmenthaler is produced in several different regions, known as Cantons, within Switzerland. These areas are the Cantons of Aargau, Berne, Glarus, Lucerne, Schwyz, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Zug, Zurich and portions of Freiburg.
Protected by AOC regulations, the production of Emmentaler must take place within co-operative dairies using cultured raw, unfiltered cow's milk that is sourced from within a 30km (18.6 mile) radius. It is also specified that milk for production cannot come from cows that have been fed silage.
The best wheels of Emmental are produced during the summer months, when the quality of milk is acknowledged to be at its peak. Wheels are usually matured for at least nine months, meaning that they are released during the following spring and onwards. This distinction is one of the very few that appear to make up Emmentaler's AOC regulated status.
Emmentaler is one of the largest cheeses produced anywhere on a regular basis. Each wheel weighs approximately 225lbs. and about 330 gallons of milk will go into the production of each wheel.
Milk stored for production, must not exceed 40°F, or be kept for longer than 18 hours prior to the start of cheesemaking. After coagulation and cutting, curds are heated to between 125°-129°F before being put into molds and pressed for 20 hours under an increasing pressure of up to two tons. After unmolding, the wheels are brined for two days to aid formation of the rind.
Cheese are then transferred to a cellar at at a temperature of 59°-65°F for 5-20 days, before being placed in a fermentation cellar at 66°-70°F for six to eight weeks.
The warmth of this cellar triggers the propionic acid fermentation process, which generates carbon dioxide. The gas is trapped in the cheese and creates the large, distinctive holes in its texture for which Emmentaler is famous.
The last stage sees the cheeses thoroughly cleaned and placed in a storage cellar at 51°-57°F, where they remain until being sold.
Emmentaler is sold at varying ages, with mild Emmentaler being released at approximately four months.
However, with careful selection, as wheels mature they will develop a wonderful array of complex flavors.
The texture of Emmentaler is very smooth and dense and velvety, punctuated by large holes.
Flavors are soft, fruity and savory with a slight bite on the finish.