New research is poking holes in old thinking about Swiss cheese. Namely: Where do cheese holes come from, and where have they all gone?
Those questions have plagued Swiss cheese producers who, in the last 15 years, have seen the signature holes in their product decrease for no apparent reason. Thanks to Agroscope, a government-funded Swiss agriculture institute, we now know it all comes down to hay.
In a report released Thursday, Agroscope and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology revealed microscopic hay particles are believed to be responsible for the creation of holes in cheeses such as Emmental and Appenzell.
Cleanliness has increased in cheese-making facilities in the last 15 years, virtually eliminating the possibility for outside particles to enter the milk before it's converted into cheese and stored. That, in turn, has prevented Swiss cheese from developing its characteristic holes.
Agroscope spokesman Regis Nyffeler told The Telegraph the primary difference in cheese manufacturing methods has been "the disappearance of the traditional bucket" used during milking. Before, small amounts of hay would have entered the bucket; now, sealed milking machines send the milk straight to a filter.
Agroscope arrived at their newest hay-pothesis after taking multiple CT scans of cheese as it developed over a 130-day period, reports the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. The research overturns a prior theory, held since at least 1917, that concluded the holes were created by bacteria that produced carbon dioxide bubbles.