Limburger: In praise of stinky cheese

Limburger is best enjoyed on dark rye bread, with a slice of onion, washed down with a dark ale.

Limburger Cheese, famous for its pungent aroma, is a soft washed-rind cheese that, along with Havarti, was a staple of my childhood, after we escaped to Germany from Latvia in the final days of the Second World War, before coming to Canada.

Limburger was originally created by Belgian Trappist monks in the early 1800s in the Limburg region of Belgium. By 1830, due to its popularity, German cheesemakers in the Allgau region of Germany, aka Bavaria, began copying Limburger Cheese. This tradition continues today as Germany is the largest producer of Limburger in the world.

It’s a different story in Canada. Only one cheese producer makes Limburger Cheese, tiny Oak Grove Cheese Factory in New Hamburg, Ontario, 130 km west of Toronto.

It’s a similar story in the United States with only Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wisconsin, making what it calls Country Castle Limburger.

St. Mang Bavarian Made Limburger is generally available in supermarkets in Canada.

As best as we can determine, Oak Grove doesn’t have distribution in the Toronto area, and it’s unable to ship Limburger to consumers dying to sample the cheese. Thankfully, St. Mang Bavarian Made Limburger is generally available in supermarkets, enabling us to recall flavours of a childhood long ago.

Limburger Cheese has an orange-brown rind and a pale straw colored interior. After maturation of 30 days, the texture of Limburger is still firm and crumbly, similar to Feta, and the taste mild, but by three months of aging, Limburger softens and becomes somewhat spreadable and extremely pungent. This strong scent is caused by a particular strain of bacteria that grows on the surface of the cheese.

Limburger is best enjoyed on dark rye bread, with a slice of onion, washed down with a dark ale.

Brevibacterium linens is the same bacterium that is employed to ferment washed-rind and smear-ripened cheeses such as Époisses de Bourgogne, Port-du-Salut and Pont L’Eveque. (We won’t mention that Brevibacterium linens is ubiquitously present on the human skin, where it can cause odor.)

But don’t let the aroma of Limburger fool you. The taste is all creamy, sweet and savoury, the paste gives off a lovely lactic aroma with some nuttiness, and the mouthfeel supple and creamy.

All the pungent punch is on the rind—which the faint of heart and palate can trim.

The rind has a distinctive patten indicating where slices should be generously cut for sandwiches.

The rind has a distinctive patten indicating where slices should be generously cut for sandwiches. After all, Limburger is a workman’s cheese, best enjoyed on dark rye bread, with a slice of onion, washed down with a dark ale or a strong cup of coffee.

In Wisconsin, they love to smear the rye bread, or pumpernickel with mustard. At our house, we prefer unsalted butter on Dimpflmeier Organic Whole Grain Rye Bread before we lay on the onion and Limburger.

Regarding the onion, we’ve developed a preference for Peruvian Vidalia sold in Farm Boy stores. Almost identical to the Georgia Vidalia in terms of taste, sweetness and color, the Peruvian onion has the characteristic of the flat granex-style onion and is grown in the Southern Hemisphere from the same seed variety as the Vidalia. (Did-you-know aside: The flatter the onion, the sweeter the taste.)

Sign posted in a tavern in Monroe, Wisconsin, home of Chalet Cheese Cooperative, the one and only Limburger producer in the U.S.

We’re waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to ease to make the trek to New Hamburg for our first taste of Canadian Limburger. Fingers crossed it will be tasty—and smell good like Limburger should.

Also waiting for Mrs. K to relent and let me try a Limburger Mac and Cheese recipe.

—Georgs Kolesnikovs

Georgs Kolesnikovs, Cheese-Head-in-Chief at CheeseLover.ca, has never met a cheese he didn’t like . . . well, hardly ever.

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