Thanks to its reputation as “stinkiest cheese in the world,” even the cheese lovers among us may be afraid to take a taste of Limburger. Indeed, the oft-described stenches of rotting feet and mouldy boots may leave much to be desired, but the flavour of this devastatingly odoriferous cheese is most likely not what you’d expect.
The pungent aroma of Limburger comes from its yellow to reddish brown rind, which is soft and easily trimmed off. Inside, Limburger is a creamy yellow, soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese that’s rather subdued and spreadable. Much like Brie, it has a tame, tangy flavour and luxurious mouth feel that is worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime.
If you’re feeling adventurous, keep reading to learn some tips and tricks for enjoying Limburger. This is a distinctive, challenging, and misunderstood cheese with legions of fans.
Though Limburger is almost universally known as “the stinky German cheese,” it was actually created by Trappist monks in Belgium. It is named for the historical city of Limbourg where it was first sold.
However, the cheese became so popular in Germany, the Germans took the recipe and made it their own. By the late 20th century, most Limburger was produced in Germany and the United States, and today even the Belgians regard it as a German cheese.
To make Limburger, cow’s milk is heated with rennet and special cultures and allowed to rest. Once the warmed milk separates into curds and whey, the curds are cut and packed into traditional rectangular moulds for pressing. The cheese is then allowed to ripen for two weeks in conditions of high temperature in humidity.
From here, the temperature is lowered and the cheese is aged for two to three months. During this time, the bricks of Limburger are bathed repeatedly with a brine of salt water and Brevibacterium linens. This bacterium, used to ferment Limburger and other washed-rind cheeses such as Pont l’Eveque, Taleggio, and Reblochon, settles down into the cheese and begins to reproduce. This is what gives Limburger its potent yellowish-orange rind and unmistakable signature scent.
Due to its lack of popularity, Limburger can be difficult to find at the market. Just one remaining cheese maker in Monroe, Wisconsin still produces it in the U.S. However, German dairy giants continue Limburger’s manufacture, and these are the gold foil-wrapped bricks you’ll likely encounter.
When purchasing Limburger, make sure this outer foil is not wrinkled or misshapen – these are telltale signs the cheese has been sitting around too long. When opened, the surface of the cheese should not appear dried out or greasy.
It’s clear the odour of Limburger can be detected at a considerable distance, so take care when storing it among other foods (or sensitive family members). Take steps to tame the aroma by rinsing the rind or cutting it off completely. Then tightly re-wrap the cheese and store in a lidded glass jar in the refrigerator. This will contain the smell without harming the texture or flavour.
Limburger is a table cheeses that’s best served with full-flavoured foods (and perhaps an after-dinner mint). Traditionally, the cheese is cut into thin slices and served with dark German breads such as rye or pumpernickel. To make a classic Limburger sandwich, spread the bread with mustard and top the cheese with slices of raw sweet onion.
Other tasty accompaniments for Limburger include boiled ham, pickles, crackers, fruits and vegetables (try radishes), and tinned fish like sardines and anchovies. The best beverage pairing here is an icy cold German Bock or Munich Lager, although a nice Riesling will do well to cut through Limburger’s creaminess.
When trying Limburger for the first time, you’ll find it’s easier to cut through with a wire cheese slicer. Trimming the rind will tame some of the cheese’s pungency, but be brave enough to try it with the rind, and without, to see if you have an honest preference.
One final and very important note: Limburger is not a cooking cheese. Heat will actually intensify Limburger’s musty funk – which just may serve to ruin your appetite.