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Appenzeller cheese comes to us from the mountain district of Appenzell in northeast Switzerland. Historically, each valley of the Alps produced its own specialty cheese that was used to fulfill tax obligations. Appenzeller is actually documented in tax records that go back over 700 years! The cheese was given its AOC identity designation—similar to a patent, but in the cheese industry— in 1981 and is thus protected by a special authority in Switzerland. It's a distinction that takes decades to earn and it attests to the uniqueness, high quality and authenticity of a cheese. Not surprisingly, Appenzeller is favored the world over, but that doesn't mean it's always easy to come by.
Three main varieties of Appenzeller are produced: “Classic” (silver label), aged 3-4 months; “Surchoix” (gold label), aged 4-6 months; and the limited-production “Extra” (black label), aged 6 months or longer. One of the key characteristics of Appenzeller is the brine curing process every cheese wheel undergoes. Each cheese is treated with a mixture of wine, spices and herbal brine, the recipe for which remains a well-kept secret known only to a few. The brining lends a spicy character that grows stronger the longer the cheese ages.
This month we bring you Appenzeller Classic, a full-fat, semi-hard cow's milk cheese that is selected and matured with the highest of standards. The experts who oversee the aging process ensure that each wheel of cheese is sent to market only when it perfectly embodies the character of its given level. In the case of Appenzeller Classic, that means three to four months in climate-controlled cheese cellars maintained at exactly 15 degrees Celsius. We are very pleased to be able to bring you this classic cheese, sought out by connoisseurs around the globe for its unique, universal mild taste.
The last time we featured Appenzeller, we selected the extra spicy “Extra,” so we’ve mixed it up this time with the milder and versatile “Classic.” Aged for over three months, this cheese has a mild spicy side, with a subtle aroma from the brine aging. It's a pressed, cooked-curd cheese with occasional pea-size holes. We found it to have a pleasing, smooth texture. Its real charm though, is its fruity tanginess, imparted by the wine or cider wash it receives during curing, making it a perfect complement for snacks, sandwiches, grilling, or as a melting cheese or fondue. Of course, the use of wine in the curing process also makes this cheese particularly well-suited to wine pairing.
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