WBEZ | limburger http://www.wbez.org/tags/limburger Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Limburger: This cheese stands alone, but perhaps not for long http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-11/limburger-cheese-stands-alone-perhaps-not-long-103648 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/louisachu/sets/72157631804403367/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgercloche.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger under cloche at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></a></p><blockquote><p>The cheese stands alone.<br />The cheese stands alone.<br />Heigh ho, the derry oh,<br />The cheese stands alone.</p><p>&mdash; &quot;The Farmer in the Dell&quot;&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>Inspired by my recent roadtrip quest for new American cheese on the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-10/young-americans-2012-rush-creek-reserve-uplands-cheese-103351">Wisconsin cheese trail,</a> I dressed as a <a href="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152224308440532&amp;set=a.10150742783180532.721091.777685531&amp;type=1&amp;theater">Limburger cheesemaker</a> for Halloween this year, complete with a ripe 5-month aged Limburger. I carried the brick around in an airtight container, offering a slice to any brave soul. While I love the full flavor of this notoriously stinky cheese, even I have to admit that out of context, it can be scary stuff indeed. In fact, Mark Twain wrote about a maddening disembodied Limburger in his gothic short &ldquo;<a href="http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/mtwain/bl-mtwain-invalid.htm">The Invalid&rsquo;s Story</a>.&rdquo;</p><p>At&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wisconsin/artisans/Results.aspx?artisan=16">America&#39;s only Limburger plant &mdash; Chalet Cheese in Monroe, Wis.</a>&nbsp;&mdash; I ate it for breakfast, sliced on brown bread, with mustard and strawberry jam, while hearing some of its history from <a href="http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wisconsin/masters/results.aspx?variety=33">Myron Olson</a>, one of only 52 Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers, and the only one certified in Limburger.</p><p>Since that morning, I learned it was a Chicagoan, James L. Kraft, who one might say nearly killed Limburger in this country, but on the Wisconsin trail I discovered a pairing that may revive this cheese, and it may even thrive again, thanks to our city&#39;s old and new food culture.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgertastingspread.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Three month aged Limburger on brown bread with honey mustard and strawberry preserves (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">You may remember WBEZ&#39;s own <a href="http://www.wbez.org/frying/braving-stinkiest-cheeses-100758">Nina Barrett </a>tasted the same breakfast of champions, after an attempt to find Limburger in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.limburg.de/startseite.phtml">Limburg, Germany</a>. There she was told by a whisky shop owner that the cheese is not from there. &quot;Limburger cheese you only find in the Netherlands, in Limburg &mdash; in the other city,&quot; he said. Well, he was partially right. Limburger cheese is widely believed to have been first made in the historic Duchy of Limburg, an area that now spans across areas of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgerjammustard.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger cheese with strawberry jam and mustard on brown bread at Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, Wis. (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: start;">Limburger was <a href="http://www.classicwisconsin.com/features/stinks.html">first made in this country in 1867 by Swiss immigrants</a> in the same county where Chalet Cheese now stands alone. By the 1920s, they were making more Limburger in Green County than Swiss cheese, to meet the demand of European laborers who ate Limburger sandwiches in taverns across the country, while drinking locally brewed beer.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgermyronolson.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger cheesemaker Myron Olson at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Then came Prohibition and there went Limburger cheese, legend has it. But Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, so the dates don&#39;t quite add up. It&#39;s more likely that changing tastes, the pressure to assimilate, and World Wars all added to the decline of Limburger in America.</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgersmearboard.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger smear board at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">And then there was <a href="http://www.kraftfoodsgroup.com/About/history/JLKraftBio.aspx">J.L. Kraft</a>, who cleaned up cheese. In 1916 he patented a process for pasteurizing cheese, so it could be shipped and sold long distances. Kraft processed cheese was born.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">But as late as 1947 Kraft Foods built what they hoped was the best and most modern Limburger factory in the world, the current Chalet plant, and replaced the old pine curing boards with new ones. Olson says the result was failed green cheese. Luckily they&#39;d saved the old boards and they&#39;ve been in use ever since.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The bacteria in the smear wash used at Chalet is even older, <a href="http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/roundtable/the-cheese-that-stands-alone.php">first cultivated in 1911, 101 years ago</a>.</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgerverticaltasting.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger vertical tasting, left to right: 2 month, 3 month, and 5 month at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Olson offers a vertical tasting of his Limburger, aged 2, 3, and 5-months old. At its youngest, it&#39;s like feta, but older it&#39;s impressively pungent and flavorful.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" at="" chalet="" cheese="" class="image-original_image" limburger="" louisa="" old="" spread="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgeramishspread.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Amish Country Old Fashioned Limburger spread at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" wbez="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">Kraft Foods once made a Mohawk Valley brand Limburger pasteurized process cheese spread, but now discontinued. It was reminiscent of the Limburger cheese once aged in Mason jars for maximum punch.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgerspreadcracker.jpg" style="text-align: center; height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Limburger cheese spread on cracker at Chalet Cheese (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">A new Limburger cheese spread hit the market in 2008. Amish Country Limburger spread is a blend of Limburger and white Cheddar. It&#39;s mild in comparison to its namesake, but a promising start to what may be a renaissance.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newglarusbock.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="Seasonal Back 40 beer at New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wis. (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">The classic pairing to Limburger is Bock, a strong German beer style. What should I discover on the Wisconsin cheese trail but the seasonal <a href="http://www.newglarusbrewing.com/index.cfm/beers/ourbeers/beer/back-40">Back 40 at New Glarus Brewing Company</a>, a mere 10 miles north of Chalet Cheese.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: left; ">With our new interest in local <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/chicagos-incredible-expanding-beer-scene-99018">craft beers</a> and artisan cheese, plus old German roots, could Chicago finally revive Limburger cheese? You can&nbsp;find Chalet&#39;s Limburger at <a href="http://www.genessausageshop.com/">Gene&#39;s Sausage Shop</a>, the original&nbsp;on Belmont and in Lincoln Square.&nbsp;</div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/limburgerchaletcoop.jpg" style="height: 411px; width: 620px; " title="America's Only Limburger Cheese Plant, Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe, Wis. (WBEZ/Louisa Chu)" /></div></div></div></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 12 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/louisa-chu/2012-11/limburger-cheese-stands-alone-perhaps-not-long-103648 Braving the stinkiest of the cheeses http://www.wbez.org/frying/braving-stinkiest-cheeses-100758 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6007_Limburger Cheese 066-scr_0.JPG" style="height: 450px; width: 600px; margin: 5px;" title="At Baumgartner's, Limburger sandwiches come with a free side of jokes. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" /></div><p style="text-align: left;">A few years ago on a trip to Germany, my husband convinced me to get on a train to the town of Limburg and look for people to talk to about Limburger cheese. Limburger has always been the most hilarious of the cheeses, stinky enough to knock down comedians like Abbott and Costello with a single whiff.</p></div></div></div></div></div></div></div></div><p>But the thing about Limburger, said my husband, who lived in Germany for 20 years and knows a lot of stuff like this, is that it doesn&rsquo;t <em>have</em> to smell and taste like sweaty gym socks. &ldquo;In Germany,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;they sell it freshly made when it&rsquo;s mild and delicious, almost like brie! You could go talk to some farmers or cheese-mongers and do a story on, like, the Lighter Side of Limburger!&rdquo;</p><p>And so I jumped on a train and spent an hour wandering the quaint streets of Limburg, with all my recording equipment at the ready. But something seemed seriously amiss. There were pastry shops and grocers, dress shops, china shops, candle shops, even a French chocolate shop &mdash; but no sign, anywhere, of cheese.</p><p>How could this be, I wondered? Surely no matter how bad it smells, how off-putting it might be to tourists from less cheese-friendly countries, they couldn&rsquo;t be hiding all the Limburger cheese in Limburg!</p><p>Finally I stopped into a boutique whisky shop and asked the owner why I couldn&rsquo;t find so much as a lump of Limburger cheese in Limburg:</p><p>&quot;Because Limburger cheese is not a product from Germany, it&rsquo;s a product from the Netherlands,&quot; the shop owner said. &quot;A lot of people come here, to Limburg in Germany, and want to try some Limburg cheese, and I always have to talk to them. Limburger cheese you only find in the Netherlands, in Limburg&mdash;in the other city.&quot;</p><p>So, having been <em>an entire country</em> off-base, some people might have given up.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6008_Limburger Cheese 068-scr.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Baumgartner's classic Limburger sandwich with slices of Braunschweiger sausage and the complimentary breath-cleansing mint. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" />But when I spotted a magazine article recently saying that the only town in America where Limburger cheese is produced is just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border, I was SO right there.</div></div></div></div><p>Limburger cheese sandwiches are one of the signature menu items at <a href="https://baumgartnercheese.com/">Baumgartner&#39;s Cheese Store and Tavern</a> in Monroe, Wisc. John Rosa has been serving them up for 10 years and personally, he loves the stuff. But he doesn&rsquo;t try to pretty it up for the customers.</p><p>&quot;My guess is that some cheese maker way back just scratched his feet in the middle of the day and got his hands in the vat, and a few months later, the rest is history,&quot; Rosa said, adding, &quot;I always like to tell people that after they have a free sample in their mouth&mdash;while they&rsquo;re eating it.&quot;</p><p>Baumgartner&rsquo;s makes the same Limburger sandwich that was served by the millions to America&rsquo;s workingmen a century ago at the peak of its popularity. That&rsquo;s runny, room temperature Limburger on rye with slices of Bermuda onion. It comes with a choice of brown horseradish mustard or sweet-hot honey mustard, and a breath-cleansing complimentary mint &mdash; not, Rosa mutters as I start to chew, that it&rsquo;s going to do me any good.</p><p>&quot;Oo, that&rsquo;s a bad face,&quot; Rosa said. &quot;And that was the mustard side or the sweet-hot side? Well, maybe you&rsquo;ll like the other side better.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s almost not a taste,&quot; I told him. &quot;It&rsquo;s just this mouthful of, like, pungent gas!&quot;</p><p>This is definitely NOT the Lighter Side of Limburger &mdash; unless you count all the Limburger jokes that come free with the sandwich.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6003_Limburger%20Cheese%20023-scr.JPG" style="margin: 5px; height: 225px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Myron Olson, Master certified Limburger-maker, puts the stink on the Limburger in the curing cellar. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" />But if you&rsquo;re willing to get up at 4 in the morning, when cheese making starts at the <a href="http://www.eatwisconsincheese.com/wisconsin/artisans/Results.aspx?artisan=16">Chalet Cheese Co-op</a> just outside town, you can get an earful &mdash; and a noseful &mdash; from America&rsquo;s only certified master Limburger-maker himself: Meet Myron Olson, Wisconsin Master Cheese Maker in Brick, Baby Swiss and Limburger.</div></div></div><p>Olson can show you everything you ever wanted to know about the process: from mixing the rennet into 2,000-gallon vats of milk, to pumping the curds into molds, to the real heart of the action.</p><p>You can hear the dripping sound in the background as he takes me into what he calls &quot;Our Limburger Curing Cellar. It&rsquo;s basically where we put the stink on the Limburger.&quot;</p><p>I yell out, &quot;OH MY GOODNESS!&quot; and take another deep breath.</p><p>&quot;It does have an odor!&quot; Olson said.</p><p>&quot;You can smell the Limburger in here!&quot; I tell him.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6001_Limburger%20Cheese%20004-scr.JPG" style="float: right; height: 266px; width: 200px; margin: 5px;" title="Mixing the rennet into a 2,000-gallon vat of fresh, whole milk. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" />&quot;When it&rsquo;s first made it&rsquo;s a bright white,&quot; Olson said. &quot;And what we do in here is, we inoculate them with a bacteria smear-water, the bacteria is a <em>B. linens</em> that grows on the surface.&quot;</div></div><p>Incidentally, the bacteria that puts the stink on the Limburger literally IS the same bacteria that causes human body odor and sweaty gym socks. Ironically, it&rsquo;s not the actual stink but the stigma that handicaps Limburger sales these days.</p><p>&quot;People, when they hear of Limburger, they kind of,&nbsp; &#39;Nah, that&rsquo;s ok, I&rsquo;ve heard all the stories about it, I&rsquo;m not gonna try it.&#39; But if I took my Limburger and put a label on it that said &#39;St. Michael&rsquo;s Reserve,&#39; people would say, &#39;Oh, that sounds different, it&rsquo;s cave-cured, washed-rind, that sounds good, lemme try it. It stinks, but boy, it tastes good,&#39; &quot; Olson said.</p><p>&quot;So have you ever considered doing that?&quot; I asked.</p><p>&quot;You know, I did actually at one time, I thought about it,&quot; Olson said. &quot;But I don&rsquo;t have the big marketing that occurs ... for me, it was kind of like: Limburger is what we do, we&rsquo;ve been doing it a hundred years, we&rsquo;re gonna stay on Limburger.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Limburger Cheese 011.JPG" style="height: 150px; width: 200px; margin: 5px; float: right;" title="Cheese makers Jaimie Castellanos and Ron Boeck. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" /></div>So Olson did something else clever with his label: He added a guide for using the sell-by date to find your own Limburger comfort level. If you can&rsquo;t handle what he calls &ldquo;Die-hard&rdquo; &mdash; the runny, full-strength way they serve it over at Baumgartner&rsquo;s &mdash; try stage one, when the cheese is only a few weeks old and actually has a very mild, yeasty smell and taste.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s what Olson calls &ldquo;Beginner Limburger.&rdquo; At stage two, when it&rsquo;s about two months old, it&rsquo;s just beginning to stink.</div><p>&quot;Now I might wanna have you try a little strawberry jam with that,&quot; Olson said. &quot;There you go.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;That&rsquo;s REALLY good! That&rsquo;s shocking! But the sweet and the salty&hellip;&quot; I said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;And that earthy tone...&quot; Olson said.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS6004_Limburger Cheese 034-scr.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Unwrapping a block of Die-hard, Stage Three Limburger. (Photo by Nina Barrett)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;That&rsquo;s really, really good!&quot;</div></div><p>So it turns out that if you want to discover the Lighter Side of Limburger, you don&rsquo;t have to go off on some wild goose chase to Germany &mdash; oh, excuse me, The Netherlands.&nbsp; Just read the label and dab on a little strawberry jam.</p><p>And if you&rsquo;re feeling brave, go ahead and try it Die-hard. I mean, what&rsquo;s the worst that can happen?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 11 Jul 2012 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/frying/braving-stinkiest-cheeses-100758