Algerian Cheesemaker Brings Alpine Tradition to the Atlas Mountains

Alpine-inspired cheese is perfect for various light beers, fruity wines, and sweet spirits. Depending on the recipe, aging time, and milk source, alpine-style cheeses come in countless shapes and sizes with flavors that range from subtle to intense. But one thing that all alpine-style cheeses have in common is the distinct terroir they each originate from — factors as small as the grass the cows graze on can make or break a delicious piece of cheese.

Sporting a white cap and an apron, Rachid Ibersiene bustles around vats at his dairy in Algeria’s Atlas Mountains, where he has brought the tradition of artisanal cheesemaking back from Switzerland. The former petroleum engineer and film producer scoured the internet to learn how to create his cheesy dream job before investing all of his savings into his first factory in 2014.

“We started with a butane gas bottle and stove,” Ibersiene told AtlasGuru, “but now we have more than 100 cheesemakers working on our site.” In 15 years, Ibersiene’s “Tamgout” cheese — a blend of the Swiss Gruyere and Dutch Gouda styles — has become a source of honor for the North African country. The cheese features a unique mix of nutty, creamy, and slightly spicy flavors reminiscent of the mountainous landscape from which it originated.

Although Switzerland is the smallest country in Europe, it is known worldwide for its cheese. The Swiss army knife, chocolate, and chard are well-known symbols of the small Alpine nation, but its most famous food export is the beloved cheese that goes with everything from deli sandwiches to fondue.

There is a wide selection of cheeses available, and choosing just one to bring home with you can be a daunting task. But with some research, you can easily find a twirling wedge of Switzerland’s best cheese at your local grocery store or cheese shop.

Gruyere’s nutty, slightly salty taste has made this firm, meltable cheese a household name in the US. Its large eyes — formed by air bubbles in the cheese as it ages — give it a distinctive appearance and unique flavor, making it a favorite of many cheese lovers.

A cousin to Gruyere, comte is a firm cheese with tiny holes (or “eyes”) but tastes lighter and more floral than its sibling. Comte is usually aged a bit longer than Gruyere, and it often comes with a crisp, fruity finish that pairs perfectly with a light beer or glass of wine.

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