Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Sbrinz a cheese of Swiss origin, was named for Brienz, the lake and region where it was first made. Spalen, an alternative name, is the word for the wooden tubs in which it was dispatched. Strictly speaking the name Spalen refers to the young cheese, which has the texture of gruyère, while Sbrinz is used for the mature version, which is aged for two or three years, during which it acquires a strong, full flavour and becomes very hard. It is not unlike the grana group of cheeses in Italy.

Sbrinz was probably being made much as it is now in the 1st century ad, when the Roman writer Columella mentioned a hard cheese made in Helvetia. Besides being especially hard, Sbrinz is almost without holes or ‘eyes’, and excellent for grating. It also melts well; and is eaten as a table cheese— thin slivers shaved off it make a good appetizer.