A generic term for cheeses patterned after Switzerland's emmental, and made throughout the world in myriad countries including Argentina, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States. Made with partially skimmed cow's milk, Swiss cheese in general has a pale yellow color, a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and large eyes. The eyes form during a ripening period of about 30 days in warm rooms where heat-loving bacteria begin to ferment and throw off carbon dioxide bubbles, creating holes in the cheese that can range in size from that of a cherry to that of a walnut. Total ripening time for Swiss cheese can take anywhere from 2 to 12 months. Regular Swiss cheese can come in wheels of 185 to 210 pounds, and rectangles weighing 25 to 28 pounds. A smaller format (two- to five-pound wheels) is known as Baby Swiss, a version typically made with whole milk. Baby Swiss also isn't aged as long as the regular version, has smaller and fewer eyes, a softer texture and a milder, sweeter flavor. Many producers make a smoked rendition of Baby Swiss.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.