SWISS CHEESE SHOP: Fromagerie Bruand, Geneva
27 October 2008
A MAN OF 300 CHEESE: In my ever growing pursuit to support & promote our local specialty food shops & producers, those who sweat & toil to bring us superior quality, hand made produce direct from the source, I recently organised an interview with Dominique Ryser, current owner of the Fromagerie Bruand in Geneva.
This was a great opportunity to meeting the man behind the cheese !!! I have often passed his store, and each time la gourmandise (love of food) takes over my senses – no longer am I the self composed, rational shopper with list – no, I have become a mouse… and a large drooling one at that. Completely mesmerized by his cheese display, I forget where I am walking, thinking only of the endless choices infront of me … salty Gruyere, soft tomme, nippy cheddar, crumbly sbrinz, creamy vacherin, velvety chevre…. and all the wonderful recipes that I could make with these. It is truly a sight to hold.
HISTORY: The Fromagerie Bruand was started in 1982 by Mr. & Mrs Bruand, mother & step-father to Dominique Ryser. In 1998 they decided to turn their attention to other pastures, these being outside of Geneva, in the Swiss town of Ovronnaz - Valais. It was here that they opened the Chalet Gourmand, a fine food store offering cheeses (fromages), dried meats (charcuterie), wine (vinothéque) and other local specialty products. The silver lining of this move was that it left room for Dominique, a chef by trade, and his wife Carole to take over the family business that same year.
TODAY: Today they are the proud owners of this flourishing local cheese shop, located in the heart of Geneva’s most prominent food hall, Halle de Rive (the same location of my recent on Pain d’épice (spice bread). Their shop is well lay out and boast a superb collection of over 300 types of cheeses, of which 60% are Swiss, 30% European and 10% coming from abroad. It comes as no surprise that with Dominique’s welcoming attitude, extensive knowledge of cheese and wide selection of quality produce, that the Fromagerie Bruand has build up a loyal clientele and a name of excellence in the industry.
PHILOSOPHY: Dominique refers to himself as a ‘chineur en grands fromages’ , which roughly translates to an expert hunter of great cheeses . His desire & expertise lies in sniffing out the best quality cheeses, which are aged to perfection – not by large companies, but by the hands of individual specialised farms. More than half are sourced from small local Swiss producers, whose families are long steeped in the tradition of cheese making, and whose lively hood comes directly from this source. Thus the support & fidelity of cheese shops such as Bruand is imperative to their well being and existence.
CHEESES: Each of their 300 cheeses is selected for its superior quality - aged & finished to perfection by each of the cheese producers. Dominique explains that the perfection of a cheese lies in its aging, and that there is nothing worse than a cheese that is plucked at the wrong time. Too young and it has an unpleasant acidity, while cheese that has passed its prime… left to mature for too long, develops a characteristic bitterness. For example the famous gruyere is perfect after 24 months but by 28 the salt will have turned it bitter. Cheese with little or no taste, are often what you find in the mass produced variety sold in the supermarket.
I asked him to give me a good example of a historical Swiss cheese he stocks, other than the famous Gruyere we are all so familiar with. He returned with the cheese Etivaz:
- A Swiss Alp cheese
- 1st Swiss AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée = Controlled Designation of Origin) This states the origin (region), quality and production location
- Made in 130 Swiss chalets, at high altitudes in the Swiss Alps
- Production season from May 10th - October 10th each year
- Over 72 Alp farmers & their families contribute to the making of this cheese
- Each farm has 38-45 cows
- Cows graze only on rich alpine pastures
- This gives the cheese its subtle flavours and excellent consistency
- The cows are milked and then the milk processed on the same premises, according to strict AOC sanitation regulations
- Approximately 400 tonnes of cheese made per year
ETIVAZ CHEESE MAKING PROCESS:
- Morning milk is poured into large copper cauldron
- Next naturally-skimmed evening milk is added
- Milk is heated by a wood fire
- Natural lactic bacteria from young calves is added – this curdles the cheese
- Using a curd knife the curds are cut into smaller & smaller beads
- This mixture of curd & whey (over 1,000 litres) is reheated to 57°C, while being continuously stirred
- The cauldron is then removed from the heat & the cheese maker, with the help of his wife, stretches a cheesecloth tightly over a frame, which he then slips under the curd
- The curd is lifted out, drained and placed in a linen-lined mould
- It is then pressed, turned over several times & branded
- Each cheese weighs 10-38kg
- Next the cheese is rubbed with salt & stored at the farm on spruce racks for up to 7 days (@ 10-16°C)
- Cheeses from the 72 farms are delivered to the cooperative cellar at Etivaz, to be matured
- First they are immersed in brine for 24hrs, then salted & regularly brushed with salt
- The salt comes from the Saline de Bex, in the depths of the Alpes (Canton Vaud, Switzerland)
- Samples of fresh cheese are analyzed every week for quality control
- The cheese (called wheels) are then stored for 7 months, on spruce shelves and turned every 5 days
The result: is a round, raw milk, hard cheese, 8-11 cm high, 30-65 cm in diameter, with a healthy outer rind and a firm, ivory coloured interior.
The taste:“clean & aromatic, salty yet fruity, with a slight flavour of hazelnut”. The vieux (old) Etivaz variety, has a slightly crumbly / flaky texture, yet remains moist without any bitterness.
The use: excellent on its own or as a desert cheese, also used in fondue and other cooking dishes as it is salty, easily grated or shopped. This cheese is especially good to use in omelets and quiche, as its salty strong flavour comes through better than say Gruyere or cheddar.