Let me begin by saying that I've never much liked Swiss cheese, having long found it hard and rubbery with a biting edge. And why not? Lots of what you find fits that description.
So I was very pleasantly surprised to learn about Fanny Mason Baby Swiss, a Swiss-style artisan raw milk cheese made by Boggy Meadow Farm in Walpole, New Hampshire. Tender and mild with a deliciously nutty flavor, this cheese is great for eating on its own. On rye bread, it makes a terrific grilled cheese sandwich. Grate it over a vegetable gratin to create a savory topping. Fanny Mason Baby Swiss is also a delicious match for big, oaky Chardonnays -- wines that often can be tricky to pair with food.
There are a few ways that baby Swiss is different than regular Swiss-style cheese like Emmenthal. Baby Swiss curds are cooked for less time. Baby Swiss cheese is aged for less time (two to three months, as opposed to nine months to two years.) And the holes are smaller.
Speaking of which, have you ever wondered why Swiss cheese has holes? (Well, I have.) Cheesemakers call them "eyes," and the starter culture used in Swiss cheese (Propionic shermanii) creates gas, which in turn accounts for the bubbles. The eyes aren't just for the sake of appearance, though—the starter culture that produces them is also what helps develop the nutty-sweet flavor for which the best Swiss-style cheese is prized.
Fanny Mason Baby Swiss is available at retail chains throughout New England or by calling 877-541-3953. You can also order it on Boggy Meadow Farm's Web site, www.fannymasoncheese.com.