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I've always enjoyed eating cheese. Just getting that out of the way. I've never quite figured out why Swiss Cheese has holes! I mean, I can understand different shapes like round, square, triangular - though I can't quite fathom why swiss has holes, how they get there, etc

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up vote 21 down vote accepted

Those are called "Eyes" by cheese makers. The appear when bacteria convert lactic acid into propionic acid and carbon dioxide, or metabolise citrate.

These bacteria occur in dairy products, though they can also be added to the curd to get the characteristic eyes. See for example Propionibacterium freudenreichii on Wikipedia.

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I don't know where this myth come from but there are no holes (or really tiny ones) in the majority of Swiss cheese:

Most famous ones :

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Okay, so I wasn't aware that there were multiple "Swiss Cheese" for the sake of my question we'll go with Emmental which appears to be "Common grocery store swiss cheese" – Marco Ceppi Dec 11 '10 at 15:43
Emmental is Swiss Cheese in North America. Just like American Cheese is that horrible bright orange processed nasty stuff even though there are hundreds of different cheeses (such as the wonderful Oka) in North America. – mu is too short Dec 11 '10 at 17:48
I visited a Gruyère factory in Switzerland once, the smell is intense. – Orbling Dec 11 '10 at 18:47
Real Gruyere hasn't holes, actually... – Alexis Dufrenoy Dec 11 '10 at 20:58
and it's not only Swiss cheeses that have holes. Quality Gouda (hard to find these days even in the Netherlands) and many other Dutch cheeses have holes as well. – jwenting Apr 18 '11 at 9:44

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