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

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried