Many people don’t think about how their cheese gets to them. My mom even said she never thought about how cheese gets into those nice wedge shapes at the store, but assumed a machine cuts the pieces.
In the shop I work at, we actually cut our cheese by hand–well, with a wire. Mostly that’s not super exciting to watch.
There’s a little board with a wire attached to it, and the wire has a handle on one side. You guide it through your wheel, and behold: there are pieces.
For some cheeses, we use a brie knife or a double-handled knife. Wheels of parmigiano require a set of specially designed picks and daggers. And then we use a long wire with a handle on each end for that subset of cheeses that weigh as much as an adult person.
When we use that double-handled wire and cut a really big cheese–like a 180-pound wheel of Emmentaler–cutting the cheese becomes an attraction.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Emmentaler essentially cuts itself in half when you first open a wheel. This is a function of weight and tension, although a human is required to cut a slot for the wire, place one handle under the wheel, and then pull the other wire across the top. The bottom handle gets dragged beneath the wheel, cutting through the cheese as it goes.
My co-monger Alicia and I did this yesterday with a big, bloated wheel of Herve Mons French Emmental that was so gassy we were afraid it would fly off like an untied balloon as soon as we cut into it.
Luckily that didn’t happen! Check it out.
Video credit: Anna Gunova