Not All Cheeses Are Vegetarian – Switzerland Cheese Advisory
Recently I came back from my trip to Switzerland. I have to admit that I took Switzerland pretty lightly before travelling. Usually, I am very excited about travelling to someplace and I do a lot of research. However, I agree that I did not know much about Switzerland and its culture before visiting it. As a vegetarian, I was sure that I will be eating mainly potatoes and cheese. I knew that not all cheeses are vegetarian, but I did not know much about authentic vegetarian dishes in Switzerland. I even told my friend that if I do not find anything, I will just buy some veggies from the supermarket and make a soup. But I was wrong!
When you think of Switzerland as a vegetarian the first thing should come to your mind is cheese. However, not all cheeses are vegetarian. In fact, most of the cheese you will find in Switzerland are not vegetarian.
Why Not All Cheese Are Vegetarian
In the cheesemaking process, a complex set of enzymes is used to separate milk into solid curds. This complex set of enzymes is called Rennet. It is produced in the stomach of young mammals. To extract this enzyme, unfortunately, a youngling has to die. If the cheese comes from the cow milk then the rennet comes from the younglings of the cow.
If cheese is soft, it can be made using lemon and other plant-based ingredients. However, if the cheese is hard, you need curds to form, which is done with the help of rennet.
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Rennet can be vegetarian as well. You can use plant-based ingredients or microbial culture to process the cheese. The cost is usually lower and quality of the cheese is usually similar. However, many cheesemakers in Switzerland still prefer the authentic way of producing cheese. In recent years, due to higher demand and lower cost, a trend is becoming popular across the world to produce vegetarian cheese.
How Do You Know If Cheese On Your Plate is Vegetarian?
- If you are in a restaurant, always check with your server. They may be able to explain the process.
- If the cheese is soft, it is possibly vegetarian (soft cheese usually do not need animal rennet).
- Check the label, look for ingredients like – vegetarian rennet, microbial rennet.
- If the cheese is French and has the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) label – It is not vegetarian.
- If the cheese name has the word Parmesan – It is not a vegetarian.
Sometimes it is difficult to make sure if your cheese is vegetarian. If you are in a restaurant, check with your server if they can suggest you a vegetarian cheese. I was in a restaurant in old town Zurich to try raclette, which often comes from non-vegetarian cheese. However, they had vegetarian options as well and I was glad to try a vegetarian raclette in Zurich!
Nevertheless, it is very hard to draw the line. Some people are following a vegetarian diet due to health reasons. Whereas, others are vegetarians due to ethical reasons and for them, this kind of cheese would not be ok. This debate is never-ending, therefore I am leaving it to people to make their own decisions.
My experience in Switzerland was incredible. I observed the country and its culture closely with locals. I visited a local cheese factory in a village, visited a chocolate factory, had fondue with Swiss friends, visited a Swiss family for dinner, experienced life of students and visited a dorm, been to the mountains, waterfall and a lot more! All of this is coming up in the following articles. Nevertheless, I still wanted to post this article first, because it is important to know about the cheese.
If you are travelling to Switzerland soon and can’t wait for my next articles. Let me assure you – Switzerland is going through a phase where eating vegetarian or vegan food is fancy. There are a lot of vegetarian options from all over the world. Moreover, if you dig into authentic Swiss food menu, you will find at least one vegetarian dish. In fact, one of my favourite vegetarian/vegan breakfast is Swiss Rosti!