Baby Swiss Cheese

From Cook's Illustrated | January/February 2014

What actually distinguishes baby Swiss from Swiss cheese, flavor-wise?

Overview:

The “baby” in baby Swiss doesn’t just refer to the relatively small size of the wheels. To suit Americans’ tastes for milder cheese, Swiss-born cheesemakers in the 1960s made a number of changes to the recipe for regular Swiss that led to a more slight flavor: They used pasteurized milk and more salt and shortened the culturing step. They also washed out the whey with hot water and aged the cheese only briefly. As a result, most baby Swiss tastes more buttery, milky, and salty than the conventional kind, and its texture is softer and moister—more like a mild provolone or munster. Those changes also considerably shrank the size of the cheese’s “eyes”; on average, they’re about as big as peas, whereas the holes in regular Swiss can be as large as walnuts.

We assumed that profile would make baby Swiss suitable only for melting in a sandwich, but to be sure, we tasted the four products we found in grilled cheese as well as on their own. By and large, we were right: The samples melted nicely and tasted similarly mild and creamy, but… read more

The “baby” in baby Swiss doesn’t just refer to the relatively small size of the wheels. To suit Americans’ tastes for milder cheese, Swiss-born cheesemakers in the 1960s made a number of changes to the recipe for regular Swiss that led to a more slight flavor: They used pasteurized milk and more salt and shortened the culturing step. They also washed out the whey with hot water and aged the cheese only briefly. As a result, most baby Swiss tastes more buttery, milky, and salty than the conventional kind, and its texture is softer and moister—more like a mild provolone or munster. Those changes also considerably shrank the size of the cheese’s “eyes”; on average, they’re about as big as peas, whereas the holes in regular Swiss can be as large as walnuts.

We assumed that profile would make baby Swiss suitable only for melting in a sandwich, but to be sure, we tasted the four products we found in grilled cheese as well as on their own. By and large, we were right: The samples melted nicely and tasted similarly mild and creamy, but we wouldn’t serve any of them on a cheese plate. However, our favorite sample did stand out for its “nutty,” “mineral-y” flavors.

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  • Product Tested

    Price*

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Winner

    Organic Valley Organic Baby Swiss Cheese

    Compared with the other samples, this baby Swiss had a pronounced “nutty,” “mineral-y” flavor and a “soft” texture that made it stand out.

    $8.99 for 8 oz ($1.12 per oz)

  • Recommended

    Boar’s Head Baby Swiss Cheese

    Due to this product’s high level of sodium—more than in the other baby Swiss cheeses we tasted—and its “creamy,” “really rich” profile, several tasters likened it to American or munster cheese.

    $8.99 for 1 lb ($0.56 per oz)

  • Recommended

    Aarafalls Baby Swiss Natural Cheese

    Some tasters appreciated a “haylike tang” and “herbaceous” taste in this mail-order cheese, but these flavors were “faint.” This sample also wanted for more salt, the amount of which was relatively low for baby Swiss.

    $5.10 for 12 oz ($0.43 per oz)

  • Recommended

    Cracker Barrel Natural Baby Swiss Cheese

    This cheese earned praise for its “creamy” texture, but most tasters found its flavor rather boring—like “mildly tangy plastic.” Even the occasional hint of “mineral-y” taste faded quickly and “fell flat.”

    $3.99 for 7 oz ($0.57 per oz)

*PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE
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