Hoch Ybrig (pronounced “hock-ee-BREEG”) is a Swiss mountain cheese worthy of its extraordinary name. A firm cheese made near the slopes of the storied Hoch-Ybrig ski area, it fittingly expresses the snap and freshness of a locale called “tall mountain.”
I first tasted this cheese about eight years ago and, as cliché as it sounds, it was love at first bite. I remember it distinctly: I was meandering around the Winter Fancy Food Show when my friend Caroline Hostettler stopped me and handed over a piece of cheese as I walked by her booth. Hostettler is a premier importer of extremely high-quality Swiss cheeses, so I never turn down anything she has for me to sample. On this particular occasion, her selection knocked my socks off.
We all know the Swiss have a long history of making great cheese, and the Hoch Ybrig is a consummate example. A smaller cow’s milk Gruyère-style cheese — produced in 16-pound wheels instead of the usual 80-pounders — Hoch Ybrig ages much faster than larger Swiss cheeses, yet still has all the toasted grain and umami that make them famous. This variety has a slight cellar mustiness, a little bit of cheese funk on the rind from being washed with white wine, a light amber-straw color with some tiny eyes, and nice firmness without being crumbly.
Hoch Ybrig is selected exclusively by Rolf Beeler, Hostettler’s partner and the best Swiss affineur working today. It is only produced by cheesemakers at one dairy (there are no substitutes!), ensuring the consistent high quality of the product. This also means it does cost a bit more than lesser Swiss cheeses, but believe me when I say it’s worth every penny.
Autumn is quickly approaching, and it’s my favorite time of the year for entertaining. So in the fall, I always have a good size chunk of Hoch Ybrig ready to go. I serve it as part of a cheese plate paired with a white Burgundy wine, warmed in a Raclette machine or mixed into a delicious fondue. If you want to make friends with cheese lovers at your next gathering, go with the ‘Brig. Plus, when you tell your guests what you’re serving, you get to say Hoch Ybrig, which is guaranteed to make everyone smile!