Holiday Pairings with Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP

Good things do indeed come to those who wait. After at least one year aging under the watchful café of the Kaltbach Master Affineur in the legendary caves, Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP makes its way onto tables around the world. With its flavors of dried stone fruit, spice, black tea and hazelnuts, it’s the perfect cheese to feature on a holiday cheese board.

Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP lends itself beautifully to both sweet and savory pairings, as well as a festive holiday punch (read on for the recipe).

It’s hard to go wrong sweet pairings to accentuate this versatile cheese that delights a wide range of palates. Choose a selection of accompaniments that add color as well as complementary flavors to your cheese board. For the holidays, we reach for deeply colored black grapes, fresh persimmons whenever they’re available, dried figs and a beautifully made jam. Cherry jam is a wonderful complement to the cheese, and if golden plum jam is available in your market, it makes for an extra special holiday treat. Finish your sweet pairings with a cookie – it is the holidays, after all! Ginger snaps, almond cookies or cranberry biscotti are all great choices.

On the savory side, there are many great options, as well. Hearty, rustic bread is a must, as are briny, buttery olives. Charcuterie is another wonderful pair with many possibilities. For our holiday board, we chose double smoked Canadian bacon (ham works wonderfully, too) and peppery soppressata.

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a cup of cheer, so don’t forget to include a festive beverage pairing or two. If you’re serving wine, choose a Cabernet Franc, red or white Burgundy, Grenache or Syrah to complement the Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP cheese. Single malt Scotch also highlights the flavors of the cheese quite nicely. If a holiday punch is more your style, we have just the recipe to accentuate your beautiful cheese board, made with sparkling pear cider, ginger kombucha, port wine and club soda. Get the recipe below.

For something non-alcoholic, ginger kombucha and non-alcoholic pear cider are both great options. Whatever your beverage of choice, raise a glass to friends, family and good food, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Ginger Pear & Port Punch

1 bottle (750 ml) ruby port wine
1 bottle (16 ounces) ginger kombucha
1 bottle (750 ml) pear cider
1 pear, sliced
1 liter club soda
1 cup frozen cranberries (optional)

In punch bowl, combine port wine, kombucha and pear cider; mix. Top with ice and club soda to taste. Garnish with sliced pears and frozen cranberries.

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The Fermentation Process

At the Fermentation Festival in Austin, Texas, we showcased our lineup of Kaltbach cheeses and talked about how important fermentation is in the cheesemaking process, along with the influence of the Kaltbach Cave on our cheese…

First – a little about fermentation when it comes to cheese.

Fermentation is the metabolic process that consumes sugar in the absence of oxygen, and the transformation of these chemical components by microbes produces energy. So – fermentation eats sugar and releases energy. In the case of cheese, fermentation means eating lactose (the sugar in milk) and producing acid.

When we think about cheese, the first step in the fermentation process happens when the milk is inoculated with lactic acid bacteria, our primary microflora, and rennet in a vat. The lactic bacteria converts the sugar (or lactose) in milk to lactic acid. The lactic acid and rennet cause the milk to curdle, which separates the curds (made of milk solids, fats and proteins) and whey (which is mostly water).

The curds soak until the lactic acid bacteria create a concentration that is just right, then the whey is drained off. The curds are then pressed, salted and mixed with different types of secondary microflora, and is then sent for aging. The cheese ripens for a designated amount of time to improve taste and consistency. During this time, the enzymes and bacteria continue to modify proteins, fats and sugars in the cheese. Fun fact: particular bacteria fermenting remaining lactose in the cheese can produce carbon dioxide, which is how we can end up with holes in traditional Swiss, or Emmentaler cheese.

When it comes to our Kaltbach Cave-Aged Le Gruyere. As you can probably tell from the name, this cheese is aged in a cave. More specifically, our line of Kaltbach cheeses are aged in the 22-million-year old Kaltbach Cave in Switzerland. Kaltbach Le Gruyere is aged in the cave for a year, brushed with a brine (water and salt) solution every 7-10 days. The cave, which has a constant temperature (50-53 degrees F) and humidity (96%), and has a huge impact on the cheese aged within it.

While aging, bacteria ferments the remaining lactose, which metabolize and create certain flavors such as fruity, nutty and sweet. The Kaltbach cheeses are entirely unique, as the microflora in the cave create additional metabolic processes that occur within the cheese that create one-of-a-kind flavors. The Kaltbach cave effects the aroma, dark rind color, smoothness, flavor and creamy texture seen with these cheeses that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.

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