What makes your cheese holy? Not because in days gone by the monks were wealthy enough to own cows and therefore make large cheeses as compared to the peasants who had goats, made small cheeses , which went mouldy in the caves where they stored them. The large, hard cheeses of Switzerland developed holes as a result of the propioni bacteria that occurs naturally in raw milk. The peasants small cheeses which grew mould developed into the camemberts and bries we know today. The first big Swiss cheeses with holes were made in the valley of the river Emme and therefore the cheeses became known as Emmentaler.
Today propioni bacteria are sold in small packets, available from Finest Kind, which can be added directly to the milk to make the holes in the cheese. But how does it work?
When making cheese the lactic bacteria utilise the lastose in milk to produce lactic acid. The propioni bacteria in turn utilise the lactic acid to produce acetate, propionate and carbon dioxide. It is the production of the gas, carbon dioxide, which is responsible for the large holes in Emmentaler cheese. The propioni bacteria also break down fats, lipids, in cheese. And it requires the lactobacillus helveticus ( LhB-02 ) to supply it with amino acids. The combination of all these products give the cheese its nutty, sweet flavours. One gram of Emmentaler can contain one billion living propioni bacteria. Latest research is proving the possible importance of this bacteria as a pro-biotic creating a stable environment for the healthy growth of colonic flora. A healthy cheese indeed.