Thanks to my visit to Whole Foods’ “odds & ends” cheese section, I was able to find cheeses I have never heard of, let alone, pronounce. One was strong, one was confusing and one was delicious. Read on for all the details.

Cheese 101: Vacherin Fribourgeois

Vacherin Fribourgeois

  • Milk: Raw Cow
  • Producer: Rolf Beeler
  • Country of OriginSwitzerland
  • Region: Fribourg
  • FamilySwiss
  • Type: Semi-Soft, Artisan
  • Texture: Firm
  • Rind: Washed
  • Aged:
    • Classic (aged 6-12 weeks)
    • Extra (aged minimum 12 weeks)
    • Rustic (aged minimum 12 weeks, but up to 25 weeks (6 months))
    • Alpage (aged 12–25 weeks)
    • Mountain (aged 9–25 weeks)
    • Organic (aged minimum 9 weeks)
  • Beverage Pairing: “Big and bold Burgundy’s, Bordeaux or reds from the Rhone Valley in France” (Cheese.com)
  • Grade (Out of 5)Cheese Grade: 3/5

Background

The milk for the cheese is sourced from Fribourgeois breed of cows that graze on the Alpine grass and wild flowers all the way through the late spring and summer. As early fall arrives, the cows are brought down to graze on grass and summer hay. No other fodder is given to the cows except the Alpine meadows. (Cheese.com)

The cheesemakers in the canton of Freiburg are known for their great ability and passion for their profession. First, they treat the cow’s milk that is delivered to them each day in their village dairies – a high-quality, rich, fragrant raw material. The cheese is then made according to a traditional, unique original recipe. Freiburger Vacherin AOP is aged and treated very carefully…(Cheeses from Switzerland – USA)

Those who appreciate a delicious, mild cheese, should savour the ivory to pale yellow coloured cheese curd of the Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP when young. As the cheese ripens, the additional exciting aroma becomes a particular attraction of this cheese.

AOC stands for Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (protected designation of origin). This is an official label for traditional products, and it is protected under Swiss law. To qualify for this label, the products must be associated with their origin and heritage, and they must have been produced according to traditional methods in their region of origin. (Cheeses from Switzerland – Canada)

Aroma/Flavor

Every once in awhile I buy cheese for Cheese 101 and then wait too long to sample said cheeses. This causes the cheese to spoil before even having a chance to be unwrapped. I believe that was the case with the first chunk of Vacherin Fribourgeois that I purchased. Not only was the aroma extremely overpowering, so was the flavor. The taste, oddly enough, reminded me of ice cream while my mom believed it to be sour. I had either purchased a very pungent variety of cheese or this chunk of cheese turned bad.

I began to investigate Vacherin Fribourgeois and slowly learned the cheese I tasted was the not the cheese the Internet was describing. For example, Cheese.com describes Vacherin Fribourgeois’s flavor as “a pleasant nutty flavour underpinned by notes of fresh hay and milk,” while The Red Cow, an Australian cheese distributor, says Vacherin Fribourgeois “has a distinct, tangy, slightly bitter with a superbly creamy finish.” These are not descriptions of the cheese I sampled.

Feeling disappointed, I returned to Whole Foods and purchased another small chunk, sampling it right away. After just a few bites, not only did I know my previous chunk was spoiled, my opinion of Vacherin Fribourgeois changed completely. Yes, the aroma is somewhat strong but it is definitely not off-putting. The flavor is woodsy and creamy and as to came to room temperature, it truly grew on me.

the kitchn states that they actually prefer Rolf Beeler variety of Vacherin Fribourgeois. “Though most versions of this cheese are excellent, I’ve found the best to be the one produced by famous Swiss Affineur Rolf Beeler. The man can do no wrong in my book. His Vacherin Fribourgeois is another great cheese in his arsenal, and well worth seeking out.”

Cheese 101: Vacherin Fribourgeois

Final Thoughts

I am very glad that I was able to experience a fresh chunk of Vacherin Fribourgeois. It is definitely a unique cheese that I thoroughly enjoyed. I tend to prefer more flavorful, unique cheeses and Vacherin Fribourgeois definitely fit the bill. If you like mild cheeses, stay away from Vacherin Fribourgeois. However, if you prefer some “funk” in your cheese, Vacherin Fribourgeois is for you.

Additional Resources

Cheese 101: Fontina Val d'Aosta

Fontina Val d’Aosta

Background

This is the real Fontina, made from the raw milk of cows grazing in 6,500 foot high Alpine pastures. This semi-firm, cooked and pressed cheese is washed weekly in our caves to develop its signature funk and keep the paste plump. (Murray’s Cheese)

Fontina is a classic Italian cheese made in the Aosta Valley since the 12thcentury. There are many Fontina cheeses made with alternative names such as “Fontinella”, “Fontal”, and “Fontella” but the Italian Fontina, Fontina Val d’Aosta, identified by a Consorzio (Consortium) stamp is the original and most famous. The other versions are much milder than the original Fontina. There is also a Danish version which can be recognized by the red wax rind. Italian Fontina has a natural rind that turns tan to orange-brown with aging. (Cheese.com)

Fontina production dates back to the Middle Ages. According to tradition, the recipe is rumored to have been passed on to the early inhabitants of the Val d’Aosta by a near-mythical man called Sarvadzo, who taught the people how to make this unpasteurized, full-fat cheese, and mature it in caves for at least three months.

Today, milk for production comes from the Valdaostana cows that graze on the Alpine pastures (which are dotted with wildflowers and native herbs) at the foot of Mont Blanc. It takes about 1.25 gallons of milk to make 1lb. of Fontina, and there are about 400 producers in the Fontina consortium, including industrial, cooperative, artisanal and farmhouse cheesemakers. (culture)

Aroma/Flavor

After sampling Vacherin Fribourgeois, the Fontina Val d’Aosta is definitely a change of pace. It is a mild, nutty cheese that has a long, subtle, complex finish. According to the Internet, this cheese contains hints of fruit, grass and earth, and is balanced by a gentle sweetness and a supple texture. I, unfortunately, did not personally experience all of these flavors and, in turn, was disappointed.

Cheese 101: Fontina Val d'Aosta

Final Thoughts

The mild flavors of Fontina Val d’Aosta really did not impress me and, at times, the taste seemed a little odd and unappealing. Although it seems like a lot of care goes into this cheese, it is not one I would find myself trying again.

Additional Resources

Cheese 101: Hoch Ybrig

Hoch Ybrig (pronounced hockh EE-brig)

Background

Along with classic Gruyere, Hoch Ybrig is one of Rolf Beeler’s flagship cheeses, and really helped give him a name in the United States. Rolf Beeler is an affineur renowned for his ability to age and care for Swiss cheeses produced by small artisan cheesemakers…

In the 1980s, Hoch Ybrig was the first cheese that Rolf Beeler helped to develop. It is made by the village dairy in the town of Kussnacht am Rigi in the style of a Gruyere, but as a smaller-sized wheel. While Gruyere weighs around 80 lbs, Hoch Ybrig wheels weigh in at only about 16 lbs. This makes it much easier for retailers to handle while also allowing Hoch Ybrig to age faster. (Cheese Rank)

A single dairy makes Hoch Ybrig, pooling the milk from several herds of Simmental cows. The milk is not pasteurized but the curds are cooked and pressed to expel whey and achieve the dense, tight texture characteristic of these mountain cheeses. The interior of Hoch Ybrig is beautifully smooth, without eyes, becoming darker toward the rind. If brought to room temperature, as it should be, the surface will glisten with drops of milkfat…Throughout their maturation, the wheels are washed with brine that contains white wine, which Hostettler claims creates the cheese’s sweet finish. (SF Gate)

Hoch Ybrig and many of his other cheeses are imported into the US by Caroline Hostettler, who holds the cheese until it is one year old before releasing it. (Cheese Rank)

There are occasional holes, or “eyes,”‘ and some cheeses develop a few crunchy granules that are the result of crystallized amino acids. (culture)

Aroma/Flavor

The nutty and sweet aroma of Hoch Ybrig provides a great window into the actual flavor of the cheese. Hoch Ybrig features notes of butterscotch, caramel and hazelnut with a dense, supple, creamy texture. The white wine that Hoch Ybrig wheels are brushed with provide a contrasting sweetness, differentiating itself from a typical Gruyere. Although I didn’t experience any crunch, Hoch Ybrig is known to have cheese crystals that provide additional texture. 

Cheese 101: Hoch Ybrig

Final Thoughts

I have been snacking on my chunk of Hoch Ybrig ever since I unwrapped it. Hoch Ybrig is absolutely delicious and has quickly vaulted to one of my favorite cheeses. The perfect mix of sweet and nutty, salt and acidity create an absolutely amazing cheese. Yes, at Whole Foods, Hoch Ybrig is $29.99/lb but it is worth every penny.

Additional Resources