Say cheese in Gruyère
Kerrin of MyKugelhopf explores Gruyère, and visits the working dairy museum where visitors can learn all about the region's world-famous cheese.
Château d’Oex’s International Hot Air Balloon festival took place last month, and some of you may have had the chance to see it all up close. Going for a weekend is a wonderful excuse to discover the beautiful region of Gruyère, especially the charming, medieval village of the same name – even if spelled differently (Gruyères).
You may have taken 200 photos of the most photogenic hot air balloons, rising high against a backdrop of the breathtaking Swiss Alps, their colours easy to spot against the clean blanket of pure white snow.
And you perhaps also visited Gruyères, with its storybook château and one pedestrian street, and stopped in a café for a hot chocolate, as well as the region’s famously rich double cream and meringues. But you must be saying to yourself now, isn’t the region better known for… cheese?!
Yes, of course! Sympathy goes to the lactose-intolerant visitor to this dairy-rich region. There is probably more cheese and heavy cream per square metre than any other village in Switzerland. For those of you making future plans to the region, leave room for a visit to La Maison du Gruyère, where you’ll learn about the region’s eponymous cheese. And literally, learn all there is to know – curds, whey, salted versus semi-salted etc.
La Maison du Gruyère, just at the bottom of the hill going up to Gruyères, is a working cheese dairy as well as museum, shop and restaurant, all under one roof. It’s an interactive museum for children and adults alike, and for all the senses – look, touch, smell, listen and taste.
And yes, there are free samples. Not many, but you get a small taster’s selection as you enter. You can then spend hours reading all the panels, watching the short films and answering trivia questions. Most of all, you’ll want to show up when the cheese-makers are busy at work: from 9 am to 11 am and from 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm, depending on the season. They produce up to 48 wheels of Gruyère a day, observing the strict AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) rules.
You’ll see every step of the process, also explained in the short films and appreciate those little tastes even more. After all, it takes 400 litres of milk to get one 35-kilo round of cheese. (You’ll be filled with all sorts of fun facts like that!)
October 2009 marked 40 years that this institution has been functioning as a cheese dairy, sharing the secrets of Le Gruyère AOC. And January 30th was the 10th birthday of the Maison du Gruyère. Festivities began in June 2009 and continue through 8 May 2010. Before leaving, be sure to take a peek into the cheese cellar, where up to 7,000 rounds of cheese mature. And you won’t want to leave empty-handed either.
Be sure to visit the shop on your way out for its exhaustive selection of local cheese. Personally, I’m best known for my sweet tooth, so it wasn’t only cheese I was filling my basket with. There are over 50 different chocolate bars too, including local chocolate brand Villars and its large range. Grab a few bars, a bag or two of meringues and a tub of crème double de la Gruyère. You’ll have the makings of an impressive cheese platter – and dessert at the ready.
La Maison du Gruyère
+41 26 921 84 00
From June to September: 09.00 to 19.00
From October to May: 09.00 to 18.00
Text and photos: Kerrin Rousset of the award winning MyKugelhopf: 'when your passions are food and travel'.
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