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Emmental

Pronunciation: [EM-mawn-tahl]

Produced since the 13th century, Emmental is Switzerland's oldest and most important cheese. It's named for that country's Emme Valley and is the swiss cheese after which all others were patterned. The only true Emmental is produced in Switzerland, but the name isn't protected so you'll also find "Emmentals" from other countries including Austria, France, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the United States. The majority of non-Swiss Emmentals are factory-produced with pasteurized milk. Swiss Emmental is made from raw milk from cows who've fed on grass and hay, but never silage. The giant 200-pound Emmental wheels are about 45 inches in diameter and up to 9 inches thick. The thin, hard rind ranges in color from pale yellow to yellow-brown and the ivory-yellow interior has a supple, smooth texture and a random scattering of cherry- to walnut-size eyes. Emmental has a buttery, delicately sweet, earthy, fruity flavor. Young examples have notes of hazelnut, aged versions become spicy. Authentic Emmentals will always have the words "Emmental" and "Switzerland" stamped on the rind. Minimum ripening time is 4 months, 8 months for "mature," and 12 months or more for "fully mature." French Emmental has been made for almost as long as the Swiss original and the recipes and production methods are primarily the same, though French versions are mostly factory-produced. Whereas regular French Emmental is based on pasteurized milk, those labeled Emmental Grand Cru are made with raw milk. Germany's Allgäuer Emmenthaler is typically made from pasteurized milk and is less flavorful than Swiss and French versions, in part because it's not aged as long. See also cheese.