Swiss cheese is a generic name in North America for several
related varieties of cheese which resemble the Swiss Emmental.
Some types of Swiss cheese have a distinctive appearance, as the
blocks of the cheese are riddled with holes known as "eyes."
Swiss cheese has a piquant, but not very sharp, taste. Swiss
cheese without eyes is known as "blind."
Three types of bacteria are used in the production of Emmental
cheese: Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus,
Lactobacillus (Lactobacillus helveticus or Lactobacillus delbrueckii
subspecies bulgaricus), and Propionibacterium (Propionibacterium
freudenreichii subspecies shermani). In a late stage of cheese
production, the propionibacteria consume the lactic acid excreted by
the other bacteria and release acetate, propionic acid, and carbon
dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide slowly forms the bubbles that
develop the "eyes." The acetate and propionic acid give Swiss its
nutty and sweet flavor.
In general, the larger the eyes in a Swiss
cheese, the more pronounced its flavor because a longer fermentation
period gives the bacteria more time to act. This poses a
problem, however, because cheese with large eyes does not slice well
and comes apart in mechanical slicers. As a result, industry
regulators have reduced the eye size necessary for a Swiss cheese to
receive the Grade A stamp.
and Lacy Swiss are two varieties of US Swiss cheeses. Both
have small holes and a mild flavor. Baby Swiss is made from
whole milk, and Lacy Swiss is made from low fat milk.
The largest manufacturer of Swiss cheese in the
US is Brewster Dairy, located in Brewster, Ohio.