The Good: Good ingredients, Melts well
The Bad: Expensive, Does not taste extraordinary, Grainy texture on tongue
The Basics: While there is nothing bad in Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere cheese, this is expensive but has such a mild, slightly smoky taste that it does not accent foods well.
In the United States, we are conditioned to believe that if something is expensive, it has an inherent quality to it. As I review cheeses, I've been advised to pick a common cheese which will act as a "baseline" for my reviews and offer a more common frame of reference and before I do that, I had one more obscure cheese to review. My wife and I have got into a little ritual last year. Whenever we would crack open a new season of Frasier we have a date night and splurge on a new (to us) cheese which we then consider. Our latest adventure with that had us trying Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere Cheese. Our initial assumption was that because the cheese was Swiss, expensive and we had never heard of it, it had to be good.
We were wrong. As excited as we were to try this - if for no other reason than my wife has a love of caves - when we finally cut into our little block of cheese, we discovered it was thoroughly unimpressive, almost tasteless in nature. While some may laud things simply because they are expensive, I like things that actually taste good, especially when we're paying $17.99/lb.!
Emmi is a manufacturer of cave-aged cheeses in Switzerland and the controlled environment of the caves is supposed to make the cheese more flavorful and regular batch to batch. The cave-aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere comes as a big wheel imported to the U.S. which is usually cut up domestically and distributed. On-line, it is fairly easy to find the cheese in one pound blocks.
The Kaltbach Le Gruyere is a pasteurized cheese that is very hard and white. Our instant impression was that it was going to have a very sharp flavor, but this was not to be the case. The Kaltbach Le Gruyere has a gray-white waxy casing that unfortunately blends with the outer layer of the cheese, making it very difficult to determine where the actual cheese begins. This is unfortunate because on our block there was ¼" of wasted product on all sides that had wrapping as a result.
Ease Of Preparation
Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere is a cheese and it tends to be used as an ingredient, though more expensive cheeses like this are intended to hold their own on their own. Preparation of the cheese is pretty simple: if it has been purchased in a smaller quantity than the entire wheel, remove the plastic wrap it is sealed in. When that is done, cut away the hard waxy coating. With this cheese, that requires a cheese knife and in order to be sure the consumer is not eating part of the casing, they have to sacrifice part of their cheese! This instantly lowers the overall value of the cheese as part of the outside of each block is unusable. This is not an easy cheese to separate from its casing.
As a lover of cheddar cheeses, I am used to cheeses having some give to them, but Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere cheese is a harder cheese, like a parmesan cheese. This is a harder cheese that cuts well or may be shredded to use for melting in dishes. This is not the easiest cheese to work with, but it may be used to replace either a hard cheddar or a parmesan cheese in dishes that call for them
Here is both where the cheese let me down and I was left with very little to write about. Emmi Cave Aged Gruyere is a very hard cheese, but it is surprisingly supple and not sharp at all. A cheddar which was this hard would be expected to be very sharp and flavorful. Instead, it is very grainy with a smoky flavor. Placing the cheese on one's tongue, it does not melt easily and the tongue may push through it when it has been in the mouth for just a few seconds. But when that happens, the cheese is very grainy, as if it were crystallized instead of carefully manufactured.
There is little distinct about its flavor, in fact. It is not sharp, it is not salty, it is more easily defined as the grainy texture than any actual sense of taste. This is a disappointingly tasteless cheese.
Unfortunately for those using this as a garnish - even a ridiculously expensive one - the cheese when shredded and melted might become wonderfully fluid, but it becomes no more tasty. Instead, using it on pasta or toast, we discovered the cheese became a milky garnish that tasted little more than slightly salty milk. This is a huge disappointment for anyone who loves cheese.
Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere Cheese is not intended to be all that one lives on and it will not keep one adequately nourished if they do. A serving of this cheese is considered 1 oz. and in that serving size, there are 9 g of saturated fat (14% of the RDA) and 120 calories, most of which are from fat. While having negligible amounts of cholesterol, sodium and protein, this cheese actually has 30% of one’s RDA for calcium.
Obviously, Le Gruyere is a dairy product, so those who are lactose intolerant will have problems with it. This cheese is made primarily of part-skim cow's milk, cheese cultures and salt. This is an all-natural cheese which has been aged for at least a year.
As a cheese, Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere should be kept refrigerated. So long as that happens, it ought to stay fresh for several weeks or even a year. Because ours was aged over a year to begin with, age does not seem to make this cheese any better. So long as it is kept in an airtight, cold environment, it ought to remain fresh.
Le Gruyere is a cheese, so it is not going to stain or ruin anything unless it is ground into a fabric. Baring that, cleanup of nonporous surfaces is as easy as wiping them with a damp cloth.
Because the cheese is largely tasteless, Emmi Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyere is an overpriced waste. Those who love flavorful cheeses will be woefully disappointed and those who want to experience what those who seem to have the finer things in life will rightfully ask "How is this a finer thing?!" With little intrigue in the taste, this is more bland and unsettling (how grainy the texture of the cheese is as it passes over the tongue cannot be overstated) and offers nothing to recommend it.
For other cheeses or foods, please check out my reviews of:
Yancey's Fancy Champagne Aged Cheddar Cheese
BelGioioso Extra Sharp Provolone
Jell-O Chocolate Fudge Pudding
For other food reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.