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Many food ingredients are simply put, irreplaceable. The French wine, American beefsteak, Swiss and Belgian chocolate are perfect examples. They are all considered as one of a kind. But, quite often it is either impossible to find the exact match of an ingredient, or it is rather expensive to get it. That is why it is necessary to make a compromise.
Today we are exploring several types of cheese, which I found to be more than adequate replacements for Swiss Gruyere cheese. Terms of taste, aroma, and density are of utmost importance, and determine the list of alternatives you can use. Still, with a bit of imagination and exploration, you can replace the Gruyere and still make a premium meal.
The Original - Gruyere
Probably one of the best types of cheese used for making fondue is coming from Swiss cantons of Jura, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Vaud, and Berne. It is famous for its enjoyable and not too aggressive taste, which will not overshadow other ingredients. It is also good cheese to melt because it retains its texture and proper thickness.
Depending on how aged it is, its taste changes slightly. As a young cheese, it is a bit salty and sweet, and with aging, it gets a bit nutty and assertive taste. Fully aged Gruyere can have slight cracks and often displays a bit grainy structure. Its variation, Le Gruyere Premier Cru (made in Fribourg) was pronounced the best cheese in the world for four times: 1992, 2002, 2005 and 2015 on competitions organized by The Guild of Fine Food.
The Norwegian – Jarlsberg
This cheese made from cow’s milk is made primarily in Norway, but there are several countries which are also producing it, under the Norwegian license. It is known for its big holes and semi-creamy internal texture. Its taste is quite similar to Gruyere, with same nutty and mild tinge. Jarlsberg is also good all-purpose cheese and can be melted, included in other recipes, or even put on a sandwich. However, it can be slightly hard to find, but if you manage to obtain it, you will not be sorry.
Good for: Almost everything, but gives its best when used in casserole and gratins
The Frenchmen – Comte
The biggest output of cheese from France comes from this specific kind. One of the most popular and well-recognized is Comte cheese. Its harsh and strict manufacturing result in well-known trademark, as well as a prolonged period of quality.
As for the taste, it has a bit stronger flavor than Gruyere, but nothing drastic. It has a compact internal part, with creamy and yellowish color. In addition, it has a superior flexibility, which is retained even when melted. I found that it is best used in baking recipes, where its slightly stronger taste won’t overpower others.
Good for: Baking
The Swiss – Emmentaler
The cheese you probably saw in the “Tom & Jerry” cartoon – that is the Emmentaler. Known for its regular holes, Emmentaler became a synonym for Swiss cheese, and quite often, it is referred as such. Its name comes from the Canton of Emmental, Switzerland, and it is made since the ancient times. Holes made by tiny hay particles were considered as imperfections, and cheese makers were trying to avoid them.
Regarding taste and texture, it is very similar to Gruyere, with a savory yet mild taste, a common characteristic for all Swiss cheeses. It also has a bright yellow internal part and is somewhat less flexible than Comte is. Still, it is great when used in fondue and gratins, and the best results are produced when it is mixed with Gruyere.
Suitable for: Fondue
Another Swiss – Raclette
One of the eldest cheese types in Switzerland, Raclette is made primarily for melting. Even the recipe with the same name is well known worldwide. It is said that cow herders were melting the cheese by the fire, and adding it to the piece of bread.
This recipe is first recorded in 1291, making this type of cheese quite old and traditional. I love using it for what it is made – melting. It has a mild taste, and it is very pleasant to eat. Its main disadvantage is probably distribution. I had to look through several supermarkets to obtain it.
Good for: Melting
The Italian – Mozzarella
Although this suggestion might sound a bit desperately, I quite enjoy using this famous Italian cheese. Traditionally, Mozzarella is made from the milk of a water buffalo, but in general, any milk can be used. That is what I liked about it the most – those gentle and subtle differences between different manufacturers.
It is quite amusing to see what the taste will be like next time. Speaking of taste, Mozzarella has a clean, mild and a bit salty taste, without characteristic Swiss sweetness. It has recognizable white color, with semi-firm structure. Mozzarella is great cheese overall, but its best appliance is on top of the pizza, and with pasta.
Good for: Pasta
The Dane – Havarti
Very similar to Swiss cheese, Havarti is made from cow’s milk, and it has a bit different looks than Gruyere. It has the same bright yellow color inside and outside. What brought it on this list is its buttery taste, which tends to grow saltier and more like hazelnut as cheese ages.
In some cases, it can be a bit sharper than Swiss cheeses, and if you do love this taste, I could not recommend it more – please try it! If left outside the fridge, it will lose its firmness, becoming semi-melted. It can be used for grilling, melting, cooking and any other purpose.
Good for: Everything, in case that you like the taste
A Different Approach
There is another option for replacing Gruyere cheese. If you are living in a bigger city, you can always visit a local cheese shop, where you can ask for advice. There are a lot of locally produced cheese that can be on par with popular and globally known brands. Of course, you need to inform the trader what are you making, and which taste you aim for. Do not be afraid to experiment a bit; who knows, perhaps you will succeed in giving your own stamp and characteristics to a famous recipe.
“Cheese is not food,” a friend of mine told me once. “It is a lifestyle.” I love cheese so much, which leads me always to freeze cheese to store it better.
I tend to agree with him to a certain level because for me, cheese is that subtle, delicate ingredient which can enrich a meal, and give it a wholly new dimension. Of course, Gruyere has a special place for me, and I can freely say that it is one of my top three choices. Still, the alternatives I have shown you today could be the perfect solution if you find it missing while preparing your next meal.