Time and Terroir
Le Gruyère Experience-Kaltbach Cave Aged, Switzerland
an installation by Elizabeth Falkner
Time and Terroir - Elizabeth Falkner (b 1966-)
2017 (dry walls, Mondaine clock, herbs, flowers, grasses, planter, digital transparencies, light box frames, minerals; calcite, mica, feldspar, quartz, tiles, canvas, wire, wood table, blended aromas, glass vials, video, sound, projector, cheesemaker notes, air conditioner)
When I traveled to Switzerland to study the Gruyére cheese making process, the first thing that struck me was that the dairy cows are grazing on alpine herbs, flowers and grasses most of the year and are walking all over keep everything mowed and re-growing. The farmers feed them hay collected high on these mountains through the winter. This diet gives the milk a unique flavor and enzyme composition. The farmers bring this unique cows milk to the cheese maker. When the cheese maker takes the milk and turns it into curd and bathes the wheels in a brine, they begin the aging process under Swiss A.O.P. law and kept at exact cool temperature and turned and their rind is washed consistently. What anyone who is not used to upon walking into these cellars is the development of ammonia in that washed rind process, and it knocks you almost over. I wanted to capture some of the different aromas in the entire cheese making process. From the herbaceous notes, to the fresh dairy notes, to earth and stone and hay. I also wanted to create aromas of the finished cheese notes, such as pineapple, nuttiness, toasty and more.
Only the best Gruyère cheeses go to Kaltbach. These caves are at the base of the Alps and they are the perfect temperature and microbial environment for the Gruyère to age. The stone/minerals that exist there are made up of calcite, mica, feldspar and quartz. A thin veil of the snow capped Swiss Alps water drains down over the walls of the cave creating a natural cool temperature. There are a few other Swiss cheeses who get to share this perfect environment with Kaltbach aged Gruyère and they just wait their time, as represented by the Mondaine Swiss clock until they are perfection.