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Sbrinz is a very hard cheese produced in central Switzerland. It is often used instead of Parmesan cheese in Swiss cuisine. The cheese is produced in only 42 dairies in central Switzerland. Only local cow's milk is used when producing this cheese. It is kept in the region until ready for consumption. Contrary to popular belief, the name Sbrinz does not originally refer to a particular place or region. Nevertheless, the Swiss Cheese Union added to this myth by launching an advertising campaign in the 1990s. As a result of this campaign, there is now an area called Sbrinz.
Sbrinz is an extra hard full fat cheese. It contains approximately 40% to 45% of fat when dry. The cheese must ripen for 16 months before it can be sold as Sbrinz, and the full flavour only develops after about 24–30 months in storage.
Sbrinz is claimed to be the oldest European cheese. The celtic ancestors of the Swiss were making cheese centuries before the recorded birth of Christ; this cheese may have been an ancestor to modern Sbrinz. The official web site claims that the cheese was first mentioned in 70 AD, but does not give any details. Other sources claim that the cheese is mentioned in contracts dated around 1200. It seems certain, however, that it is mentioned in documents dating from 1530, which are kept in the state archive in Bern.
Origin of the name
While there is no village or region that was known as Sbrinz, there are two possible origins of the name. The name may come from the village of Brienz in the Canton of Berne. In the 16th and 17th centuries Brienz was a transportation hub for cheeses from the Bernese Oberland and Central Switzerland, from which they would be transported over the Alps. The Italian purchasers called the Swiss cheeses Sbrinz after the origin of the pack trains, and the name spread into Switzerland. A second origin for the name comes from the Lombard word sbrinzo which means any hard cheese.
Since 2001, Sbrinz has been listed as a "controlled term of origin" (AOC) under the Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft (Federal Office for Agriculture). The AOC provides specifications for the origin of the milk and the processes that must be followed in order for the cheese to labeled as Sbrinz.
Sbrinz is commonly consumed in one of the following ways: It can be used grated, such as on pasta. It can be eaten in small pieces, often to accompany wine. It is also eaten in thin slices planed from the hard cheese. Finally, Sbrinz is often simply enjoyed with bread and butter.
- Sbrinz in the online Culinary Heritage of Switzerland database
- Weinzweig, Art; Judy Ridgway (2004). The Cheese Companion: The Connoisseur's Guide. Running Press, 160. ISBN 0-76241-956-3.
- Roth, Alfred G. (1993). "Der Sbrinz" und die verwandten Bergkäse der Schweiz. Burgdorf: ED Emmentaller Druck, 6. ISBN 3-85654-942-5.