Gruyere is a hard yellow cheese made from cow's milk, named after the town of Gruyeres in Switzerland, and originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne. Before 2001, when Gruyere gained Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status as a Swiss cheese, some controversy existed whether French cheeses of a similar nature could also be labeled Gruyere. (French Gruyere style cheeses include Comté and Beaufort.) French Gruyere cheeses must have holes according to French agricultural law, whereas holes are usually not present in Swiss Gruyere.
Gruyere is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex. When fully aged (five months to a year) it tends to have small holes and cracks which impart a slightly grainy mouth feel. To make an 80 kg (176 lb.) round of Gruyere cheese, about 8000 liters (2110 gallons) of milk are used.
Gruyere is in the family of Swiss cheeses, a group of semi firm pale cheeses stippled with small holes or air pockets. Gruyere also has the distinction of carrying an appellation d'origine controlee, or protected origin designation, which means that only a specific cheese can be labeled and sold as gruyere. Gruyere is a popular cheese around the world, where it appears in a wide variety of dishes.
Gruyere is a creamy, pale cheese with small holes and a slightly granular texture. The holes rarely exceed the size of a pea, and are widely dispersed within the cheese.
The flavor is rich and somewhat nutty. The cheese is also slightly salty, as it is a brined cheese. Because gruyere has a distinctive but not overpowering flavor, it is an excellent addition to quiches, soups, salads, and pastas. Gruyere can be sliced or grated depending on the desired effect.
After being pulled from the brine, the cheese is ripened for two months at room temperature. Once the cheese has been ripened, it is aged for three months to one year, with more aged cheese having a more developed and intense flavor. It is generally agreed that the more the cheese is aged, the better the flavor will be, with young gruyere having a slightly sharp raw flavor which will temper with age.