One of the most famous cheeses, at least by sight anyway, has to be Emmental. Mouse cheese. Holey cheese. Or many other names it goes by according to my kids over the years. But Emmental isn’t the only cheese with holes, in fact, many cheeses have holes.
So, why do we have holes in cheese?
I’m not a cheese scientist, just to be 100% clear! Although what a cool job that would be. I am however, a curious cheese lover and found myself pondering this very question. (Usually while throwing various cheeses at my face).
We travel to the French Alps a lot (or, at least, did when we could actually travel), it’s like our second home there. Particularly a place called Abondance in the Savoie region. If you are a cheese fiend, or just semi knowledgable about cheese, you’d know that there is an Abondance cheese from this village. The region produces not only the semi hard, nutty, Abondance (very similar in aged form, to a Beaufort, Comte style cheese), also the smelly, soft Reblochon, and tomme de savoie.
A Tomme de Savoie is very much like many tommes around the country, yet in this instance produced using the milk from Abondance cows.
Why are we talking about Tomme de Savoie when it comes to holes in cheese?
From my research (so basically because I’ve Googled it, I probably could call myself a cheese scientist now…) there are two types of holes produced in cheese;
- Mechanical, or Open Body
- Gassy, or Bacterial
The above Emmental has smooth, round shaped holes in the cheese. Much like the other similar cheeses like, Jarlsberg etc. These holes, or eyes as they are referred to, are produced in the cheese making process. The cultures of bacteria are mixed with the cow’s milk, the pressed curds are soaked in brine to form the rind and then they’re wrapped and stored to ripen. This is where the magic happens. The bacteria P. shermani still active and doing it’s magic in the process also produces CO2, which forms bubbles in the cheese. This is where these uniform, bubble like holes in the cheese occur.
Tomme has holes though? Where do those holes in the cheese come from?
These are referred to as Mechanical Openings and are often considered a defect in many cheeses. If you had mechanical openings in Cheddar for example, this would not be good, but in a Tomme variation, it’s expected.
The mechanical openings in cheese occur again as a part of the cheese making process. Instead of gases being the cause, these less smooth, irregular sized holes come from the pressing process. Where trapped whey makes an impression in the cheese on pressing, but as the ripening occurs and the moisture disperses, you’re left with these mechanical holes. You can often eliminate these in the process, but for the short 60 day cheese ripening process for most Tomme cheeses, you get less opportunity to do so. Like I mentioned, this is a part of the style of cheese it now is.
So there we have it. Everyday is a school day. Cheese has holes and it’s all about the science. Hope you enjoyed the read and if you have anything to add please make sure you do comment or let us know and check out our other posts.
Do make sure you grab the Cheezus app and learn more about what pairs with these cheeses and in the future where you can buy them, too!