Jun 03

What makes the holes in Swiss Cheese? | It’s the bucket, stupid!

This is where Swiss cheese gets its bubbles, but there’s a debate brewing on HOW those bubbles form. According a recent report, it’s the bucket, or rather, what falls into the bucket when farmers milk Old Bessie, that determines the holes.

Scientists have long held that certain bacteria in young cheese release carbon dioxide to form the ubiquitous holes that people, (and mice), around the world love so well. A recent report, however, published by The Guardian and Agroscope, a state centre for agricultural research, said the phenomenon – “which marks famous Swiss cheeses such as emmental and appenzell – was caused by tiny bits of hay present in the milk and not bacteria as previously thought.”

Whoa.

The piece goes on to say that “the mystery holes became smaller or disappeared when milk used for cheesemaking was extracted using modern methods.” As it turns out, “It’s the disappearance of the traditional bucket used during milking that caused the difference.”

You can read the whole article here.

What do you think? We have so many questions, like, what about the huge holes? Are those formed by huge pieces of hay? Does the hay swirl around like an excited electron, thus forming holes of different sizes. What about bacteria on the old buckets? Could that be the culprit, or the farmer’s hands? Maybe something falls from the cow and into the milk that we’d rather not know about. Ahem.

We have unanswered questions, but this is certainly a great conversation starter for the next fondue party!

Please leave your comments below.

Photo: Swiss cheese ages (and gets its bubbles) at the Emmentaler Schaukaeserei “Show Dairy” in Affoltern im Emmental, Switzerland. | By Chris Pranskatis

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