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Baby Swiss Cheese

This month we bring you another
'American Original' Cheese.

It's not really Swiss, and it's not really a Baby in size at all (only when compared to those monster Swiss Emmentalers.)


As many of you probably know by now, there really is no "Swiss Cheese" in Switzerland. In Switzerland, they make a variety of "Alpine" cheeses, with some having large holes. The most notable of these cheese is Emmentaler. During the late 19th and early 20th century, many of the Swiss cheese makers began to move to Wisconsin and settled in the "Dairy Belt" of Green and Dodge Counties. Originally, they made large wheels of cheese (3 feet wide, 125 pounds) patterned after the Emmentaler of Switzerland. Naturally, these became known as 'Swiss Cheese.'
As the trend changed to larger cheese factories, a broader market and wider distribution, the call for a smaller cheese with milder flavor began to arise. This was soon addressed with the development of this much smaller cheese made with full fat milk that was aged only a few months. Although this new cheese was not that small at 5 lbs, compared to the much larger Emmentaler cheese, it is truly a baby.

A bit of history:

The driving forces in Baby Swiss evolving into a true "made in America" style cheese, were two Wisconsin cheese makers.
They were Eldore Hanni and Alfred Guggisberg, who were both of Swiss background (as can be seen by their names here).
Eldore was second generation Swiss, living in the heart of dairy country in Wisconsin, where much of the cheese making was of Swiss and German influence. Alfred moved to Pennsylvania from his home country- Switzerland.

Alfred Guggisberg was only 16 when he began to make cheese in the mountain pastures of Switzerland (the Alps). He furthered those skills at the famous Swiss cheese maker's institute before coming to the United States in 1947. Here, he settled in the Amish country of central Pennsylvania  Doughty Valley in Charm, Ohio to work with the Amish farmers as a cheese maker.
By the 1960's, Alfred had developed a new style of cheese, which became the Baby Swiss cheese (1968). This was patterned after the Emmentaler of his homeland, but was much smaller and made with a richer milk. His focus in doing this was to develop a milder flavor for the American palate. Today, the Guggisberg cheese company is still thriving.

Eldore Hanni was a second-generation Swiss immigrant, who began making specialty cheese as a teenager (he managed a cheese factory at the age of 17). His strength was developing new recipes and in the early 1970's, Eldore began working on a recipe for Baby Swiss. Later in the 70's, he moved to the Amish area of central Pennsylvania to establish his new dairy and work with the milk of the Amish farmers. This eventually became Penn Cheese which flourishes to this day, although Eldore has retired.

There was a similar and parallel evolution for both men in developing this cheese.  It resulted in a cheese with smaller holes and a creamier flavor from the use of full fat milk. It did not need to age as long and hence had a milder flavor.

What is a Baby Swiss:

In Switzerland, there is no 'Swiss' cheese, because there is a wide range of Gruyere and Emmentaler style cheese. Essentially, these can be divide into those with or without holes. In America, we call anything with holes Swiss Cheese. Most of these have origins in the dairy counties of Wisconsin, where many German and Swiss immigrants settled with their cheese making skills.
The “true” Swiss cheese is Emmentaler (never called Swiss), a cheese made in Switzerland under an Appellation of Controlled Origin to ensure that the integrity of the cheese is maintained. The technique, however, has been duplicated in numerous nations, leading to generic “Swiss” cheese for sale in many nations.

But this is a Baby Swiss Cheese...
The flavor of 'Baby Swiss' cheese is buttery, nutty, and creamy. The cheese melts very well, making it suitable for a wide range of dishes. The small holes also make the cheese easier to work with, since especially large holes can pose problems in salads and other dishes which involve slices of the cheese. Some delis also label baby Swiss cheese as 'Lacy Swiss,' since the cheese looks like fine lace, but those are actually made from a lower fat milk.

How is this cheese made:

This is a cow's milk cheese made with a mixture of bacteria. Besides the normal lactose converting bacteria, it contains another special propionic bacteria that breaks down the lactic acid in the cheese and generates carbon dioxide, which forms bubbles in the cheese as it ages. This is quite similar to bread dough rising but takes much longer.
The longer the cheese is allowed to age, the more complex the flavor gets, and the larger the holes will become.

One of the primary steps in making this style of cheese is a very slow conversion of lactose to lactic acid.
This is accomplished by:

  1. Controlling the amount of culture and ripening time.
  2. Removing whey and replacing with warm water early in the process to limit the culture's food supply (lactose).

This will result in the very elastic curd structure, and functions to hold the gas in the cheese as the holes develop. This is most obvious in the finished cheese, with round glossy looking holes and the elastic ability to bend the cheese slices without it breaking.

To make 'Baby Swiss' cheese, several things about the cheese making process are altered from traditional 'Swiss:'

  1. The cheese is made with whole milk, for a richer, buttery flavor.
  2. It is usually a much smaller wheel of cheese, about 5 pounds.
  3. The use of a Mesophilic rather than a Thermophilic culture is used.
  4. The milk may also be cut with water, which slows the bacterial activity.
  5. Most importantly, Baby Swiss cheese is aged for a very short period of time, so that the holes do not have time to grow very large. The shorter curing time also results in a more mild flavor, which some consumers prefer.

Variations in style :

As mentioned above there are 2 variations in this style:

  • 'Baby Swiss' made with full fat milk.
  • 'Lacy Swiss' made with fat reduced milk.

A Recipe for Baby Swiss Cheese

We suggest making a minimum 4 pound cheese for this one because we need the curd mass to contain the gas production and develop the holes.

Before you begin:

You will need:

Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.

For making a smaller 2 Gallon batch

If you  would like to make a 2 gallon cheese and are willing to have a less "Swiss" type character, then you can make the following changes in the above recipe.
  • 2 gallons of milk
  • 1/8 tsp MM100 culture for buttery flavor (1/2 pack of our C101)
  • 1/16 tsp Propionic.shermanii culture (essential for producing the holes).
  • 1.5 ml liquid single strength rennet.
  • Use the smaller M3 mold if using the 2 gal  of milk.
I HAVE INCLUDED NOTES WHERE APPROPRIATE FOR THE SMALLER SIZE IN THE DIRECTIONS BELOW

Acidifying and heating the milk:

Begin by heating the milk to 84F (86F if using raw milk with higher fat). You do this by placing the milk in a pot or sink of very warm water. If you do this in a pot on the stove, make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

Once the milk is at the proper temperature, the culture can be added (3/4 tsp calcium chloride as well if needed).

  • 5/16 tsp MM100 if raw milk or 7/16 tsp if using pasteurized
  • 1/8 tsp Propionic.shermanii for either pasteurized or raw milk
Use half of the above additions if using only 2 gallons of milk

To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

Allow the milk to ripen at the above temp for 45min to 1 hr. Keep the milk covered and quiet during this time.

While waiting for the milk to ripen, heat 2 gallons of non-chlorinated water to 130F. This will be used in the following steps to heat the curd and replace the whey you will be removing.


Coagulation with rennet:

Then, add the liquid single strength rennet to the milk .

The milk now needs to sit quietly for 40-45 minutes while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. You should notice the milk begin to thicken in 10-15 minutes, but allow it to continue firming for the full time. The thermal mass of the water bath should keep the milk warm during this period.


Cutting curds and releasing the whey:

Once a firm curd has formed:

  • The curd mass can be cut into 3/8 inch pieces as evenly as possible over 5-10 minutes.
  • Allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes and then stir gently for another 5 minutes.
  • Allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the vat for another 5 minutes.
  • Next, you will carefully remove 1/3 of the whey . This will reduce the lactose, thus slowing the bacteria and the acid production down. This will be what makes the elastic texture for this cheese.


Cooking the curds :

Now it is time to begin drying out the curds. This will be done by increasing the heat slowly to 102F.
This will be done by adding the hot water at 130F slowly to the curds:

  • Slowly add back water at 130F to reach 95F in 5 min.

  • Stir for 5 min.
  • Add remaining water to reach a curd temp of 102F in the next 5-10 minutes. The final water addition should equal whey taken out for lactose dilution.

  • Next, stir for 30-40 minutes slowly to keep curds moving. This will achieve the final dryness. Make sure to check the curds for proper dryness. The final curds should be cooked well through and should be examined to make sure that enough moisture has been removed. A broken curd should be firm throughout and the curds should have a moderate resistance when pressed between the fingers.
  • When this point is reached, let curds settle and consolidate mass to one side of vat for better consolidation of curd.

Removing the whey:

Next, drain whey to 1” above cheese surface and add plate large enough to cover the curd mass for moderate pressing under the whey. Use approximately 1/2 of the expected curd weight (2.5 lbs for 4 gal -1.5 lbs for 2 gal) as top weight. This will help to consolidate the warm curd nicely and minimize any mechanical holes in the cheese body.

Remove remaining whey and transfer curd mass into cloth and then immediately to forms for draining. Here I simply roll my consolidated curd mass into the press cloth and gather it as a single cheese, then transfer this to the mold.


Pressing:

The pressing for this cheese should be rather minimal, because we have already done a pre-press under the whey in the vat to consolidate the cheese body.

Begin by pressing at about 2 times the cheese weight, which should be about 8-10 lbs for this cheese (5-6 lbs for the 2 gallon batch).

Turn the cheese and re-wrap in press cloth at 1 hr. intervals and increase weight after about 1-1.5 hrs if needed for a smooth surface. The weight can be increased to 20-25 lbs (12-15 lbs for a 2 gallon batch) for this. Keep the cheese warm during this period at 75-80F during total press time of 5 hours.

I begin this cheese pressing with about 1 gallon of warm water (8.5 lbs)
then after about 1 hour increase the weight to the 25 lb. block of granite that balances nicely on top.
Also, note the pans of warm water and the insulated pad to keep things nice and warm for the acid to develop.

At the end of this period, the cheese should have developed its final acidity and should be moved to a cooler (52-56F) space to rest until the next morning (8-10 hours). The cheese should not be allowed to develop excessive acid greater than a final pH of 5.2-5.3 because this will impede the development of the gas forming bacteria.

The final cheese should show a nice tight rind with no openings to harbor molds. This will make the surface so much easier to maintain and keep clean through its aging life. The cheese to the right is ready for it's brine bath.

Salting:

You should have a saturated brine prepared for salting this cheese.
You will find all of the details you need on brining here.
A simple brine formula is:
1 gallon of water to which is added 2.25 lbs of salt, 1tbs. calcium chloride (30% solution), and 1 tsp. white vinegar.

The cheese now needs to be set in the brine for about 2.5 - 3 hrs per lb.
The cheese will float above the brine surface, so sprinkle another teaspoon or 2 of salt on the top surface of the cheese.
Flip the cheese and re-salt the surface about half way through the brine period.

The cheese should not be over salted because this will also impede the development of the gas producing propionic bacteria

Aging:

Now here is where things get interesting:

  1. Following brining, dry off cheese and move to the cool aging space at 50-55F for 2-4 weeks. Turn and control mold with a brine damp cloth daily.
    Do not wax the cheese until full hole development occurs.

     
  2. Move to an aging space of 65-70F and 80% moisture for 3-4 weeks of hole development or 2-3 weeks for smaller holes (this will be somewhat determined by the condition of your initial cool aging). Make sure you turn the cheese daily to help even out the moisture, because this will affect the hole sizes and distribution.
    The time in this room will determine the amount of gas produced, the size of the holes, and the amount of swelling in the cheese. The cheese may be waxed at this point or simply dry brushed periodically for a natural rind.


  3. Move to cold room 45-50F and 85% moisture for a month or more for flavor development.



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