Switzerland: Journey to the source

Swiss cheese: Gruyÿres

What did the Romans ever do for us? For the inhabitants of Gruyères in the canton of Fribourg, the refrain might just be "taught us how to make cheese". Then again, it could have been the other way around. The Romans, apparently famous for their cheese-making, once roamed the region, and legend has it that one of their emperors, Antonin the Pious, died of indigestion here in AD161 after eating too much of the local hard stuff.

What did the Romans ever do for us? For the inhabitants of Gruyères in the canton of Fribourg, the refrain might just be "taught us how to make cheese". Then again, it could have been the other way around. The Romans, apparently famous for their cheese-making, once roamed the region, and legend has it that one of their emperors, Antonin the Pious, died of indigestion here in AD161 after eating too much of the local hard stuff.

Gruyères, the cheese in question, is named after the district and medieval town. Gruyères, the area, is in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, a mountainous region, with deep, narrow valleys dotted with traditional wooden hamlets, lush green pastures, burbling streams and thick forest.

Gruyères, the ancient walled town, was the capital of the area from 923 and the place from which a succession of counts ruled the land. The castle now houses a museum containing exhibits such as three mourning robes belonging to the knights of the Golden Fleece dating back to the Burgundian wars.

Gruyères, the cheese, first crops up in documents around the Middle Ages. A charter set up in 1115 gave the nearby Cluniac Priory in Rougemont the right to be supplied with cheese from the nearby Gruyères Alps. Local farmers were allowed to let their cows graze the pastures in return for the cheese. The Abbey was supposed to provide the cheese-makers with vats, sieves and cheese wheels. Cheese was also made in the alpine villages every summer for personal consumption of course, but it wasn't until 1249 that something resembling a cheese trade in Fribourg came into existence.

The sons of Rodolphe de Gruyères freed their subjects from Gessenay from the charter of 1115 and granted permission for the export of fatty cheese. Gruyères was first exported to the nearby markets of Vevey and Geneva and later, as roads improved, as far afield as France and Italy.

The famous wheels of Gruyères are still produced in the village dairies using traditional recipes. Gruyères is a smooth-hard cheese with (apparently optional) holes. The long maturing process gives Gruyères its distinctive flavour as does the milk, fresh from the cows grazing Alpine meadows during the summer and hay in winter.

The maturing process takes several months during which time the cheese is turned over and washed with salted water. A young cheese, matured for around five months, is mild; a cheese matured for 10 or more months is sharper and stronger.

Lucy Gillmore

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam