Sunday, December 29, 2013

Weekend Wisdom: What's the Story Behind Jarlsberg Cheese?

Huffington Post recently posted an article entitled "What Your Favorite Cheese Says About You."  These personality analyses are apparently designed to help you know who you really are.  When we read them, we secretly hope that we're shown to be only good with a smidgeon of spunk, snark, and silly. I don't think we really give much credence to these pseudo-Freudian exercises, but it's all in good fun.

In the latest cheesy edition, by virtue of my favorite cheese being Swiss, I am deemed to be a liar.  Well.  It's said that even a liar tells the truth sometimes and I would imagine the inverse is true too, but lying is something I just don't do, save for those little white ones that don't really matter to anyone except the person you're lying to.  ("No, it does not make you look fat.")  So much for that.

But let's talk about my favorite cheese.  Swiss.  The cheese that doesn't taste a thing like it smells.  The sense of smell is closely affiliated with our sense of taste, so why on earth do we like cheese so much?  Even Swiss cheese doesn't come close to being the stinkiest cheese of all, but clearly, there are millions who don't let the strong odor bother us and we chow down.

Swiss cheese originated in Switzerland (hence, the common name) and my nearly lifelong penpal from there told me years ago that what most of us think of as Swiss cheese is properly called Emmenthaler, coming from the Emmental region of Switzerland. But Swiss cheese is also made elsewhere and a number of varieties exist.

Ohio plays a major part in the cheese world, in spite of most people thinking of Wisconsin as the cheese capital in the U.S. The biggest producer of all-natural Swiss cheese in the U.S. is located in Brewster, Ohio.  And Baby Swiss was invented here.  The characteristic holes are the result of bacteria (one is Streptococcus!) producing gases as one bacteria consumes the lactic acid produced by the others, and the bigger the holes, the longer the cheese has been aged.  However, hole size is regulated because it becomes a problem for mechanical slicers when they're too large.

I like all kinds of Swiss cheese, but my favorite is Jarlsberg (pronounced yarlz'-berg), which doesn't come from Switzerland at all, but Norway.  It seems that the formula for producing Jarlsberg cheese is closely guarded and it is only made in Norway, except for two other places in all the world.  One is in Ireland and guess where the other one is.  Go on, guess.

That's right - Ohio.  The cultures used to make my favorite cheese are imported by Alpine Cheese in Winesburg, Ohio, and they do their part in satisfying the country's taste for the Number One most imported cheese in the country - over $125 million worth each year.

All I really care is that this sweet, nutty cheese is sitting in my refrigerator right now and I can partake of its deliciousness when the mood strikes.  Which is often.


Erin @ The Impatient Gardener said...

I think it probably goes without saying that I love cheese and almost every kind (well not Limberg or whatever that awful stinky stuff is called), but I believe it's my birthright as a native Wisconsinite to have an affinity for the stuff. Sadly I'm doing a bit of a detox right now that doesn't allow me to have any dairy and I really, really miss cheese.

I have to say I did not know this about jarlsberg cheese. Frankly I'm shocked there is a cheese made in Ohio that Wisconsin doesn't make better. :) Just pulling your leg, you know .... but we do have some damn fine cheese here.

Kylee Baumle said...

Erin ~ I think Wisconsin is the undisputed cheese king in the U.S. As far as Jarlsberg goes, this is a very big deal. True Jarlsberg is licensed and for whatever reason, they only allow it to be made in those two places outside of Norway. The formula and cultures are heavily guarded. I really had no idea until this week, when my mom had it at our Christmas Eve dinner and said she'd gotten it at Costco. I looked it up for some reason and found all this out. Fascinating, really.

And you have my sympathy that you can't eat cheese right now. I LOVE CHEESE - so many different kinds. There is another Alpine cheese that I probably like better, but for the life of me, I can't remember the name. It's not easily found around here. It has lots of tiny holes, is a softer Swiss, much like Baby Swiss and the name starts with an "L." It stinks to high heaven, but when you eat it, oh my goodness, it's so mild and sweet. Wish I could remember the name. It's been years since I've had it.

I had some of the best curds EVER when we were in Wisconsin years ago. They were mozzarella curds. Now you can't find those just anywhere either.

We have raclette here from time to time at our house and we bought our raclette grill in New Glarus, WI. :-)

Kylee Baumle said...

Erin ~ LORRAINE SWISS!!! Oh my goodness how that stuff stinks. My kids always called it "stinky cheese," but it tastes fabulous. Like I said, mild and sweet. And the thinner, the better. Mmmmmm...

Sid Raisch said...

An addictive cheese "dip" made with shredded Jarlsberg, onion, and some sort of creamy binder is sold at our local Kroger in small clear tubs. It is on the expensive side, but a worthy treat, and also rather addictive. It "scoops" readily onto crackers, unlike cheddar based cheese "spreads" that are nearly impossible to use without breaking the toughest of crackers. I assumed they make it in-store, but perhaps it is shipped to them pre-made.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kylee. I like Swiss cheese, but one of my favorites is chocolate cheese. I don't see it very often, but when I do I buy a couple of chunks of it to enjoy.

Kylee Baumle said...

Sid ~ That sounds wonderful! I'm not a big fan of cheddar, except in baking and cooking, as in casseroles. I'll have to check our Kroger stores to see if they have this. Thanks for the recommendation!

Kylee Baumle said...

Susanne ~ Chocolate cheese??? I've not heard of that. I don't know if I'd like it. I'm not a chocoholic like my husband, and I don't care for chocolate cheesecake, so I wonder if I would like chocolate cheese. It's an interesting concept though and one I'm willing to try. I'll keep my eyes open for it.

Susan Tomlinson said...

A fun post! According to The Huffington Post, I am Norwegian.

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