If you asked the proverbial man in the street which countries make the best cheese I’m sure Switzerland would be in their top three which makes it ironic that, Gruyère apart, we get hardly any Swiss cheese of note in the UK.
So it’s good to find a food writer colleague of mine Sue Style has written a really excellent book on the lesser known artisanal Swiss cheeses, called Cheese: Slices of Swiss Culture. It’s charmingly illustrated with old prints and paintings and covered with a edelweiss-patterned material which is apparently used for the shirts that are worn by cheesemakers, country music players and, er ... wrestlers.
We tasted three of the cheeses she writes about at a food writers’ get together before Christmas and they were totally delicious, particularly the gooey Vacherin-like Bergfichte from Willi Schmid of Lichtensteig. The others were an 18 month old Gruyère Surchoix and a Mont Vully Classique, a semi-hard Appenzeller-like cheese from the Fribourg canton
The book is thorough but never dry, explaining exactly how each cheese is made, how it tastes and the story of the producer she has chosen to represent it. What’s fascinating is how the French, German and Italian influences in the country all make their way into the cheeses. There are also details of tourist trails such as the Chemin du Gruyère and the Sbrinz route which runs through the mountains south of Lucerne.
Sue is also an accomplished cookery writer and there’s a short but appealing selection of recipes at the end of the book including a wicked-looking cheese pudding called Ramequin, a cauliflower and broccoli cheese with walnut crumble, cheese pasties with bacon and potatoes and - best of all, I suspect - a double decker ‘rosti’ sandwich filled with melted cheese which looks well worth abandoning the new year diet (what diet?) for.
You can buy Swiss cheese, as I’ve mentioned before, from KaseSwiss who are now back in Borough Market opposite the Monmouth Coffee Company on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and still at Druid Street on Saturdays. And you can buy Sue's book direct from the publisher Bergli here. At 49 Swiss francs (£33.63) it's not cheap but if you're a cheesemonger or a serious cheese aficionado it's well worth it.