Limburger is a creamy, brick-shaped washed rind cheese with a mild, beefy flavor and a reputation for its strong, pungent aroma. Limburger is a good source of calcium and protein. Limburger is produced in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and North America.
- Milk source: Cow
- Country of origin: Belgium
- Texture: Semisoft to semihard
- Color: Pale golden with a peachy-pink rind
What Is Limburger Cheese?
Limburger cheese originated in the Limburg region of Belgium in the 19th century, where it was first produced by Trappist monks. After the cheese became very popular throughout Europe, cheesemakers in Allgäu, a region in southern Germany, began producing it. Now, the nation is the top maker of Limburger worldwide.
During the Industrial Revolution, the cheese migrated to the United States and was first produced there in 1867. It was once made at more than 100 factories in the Midwest. Today, only one American producer, Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Wisconsin, makes Limburger. In Canada, Ontario's Oak Grove Dairy produces it as part of their line of Wisconsin-style cheeses.
Limburger gets its signature funky aroma and pale pinkish-orange rind thanks to regular washings in salt brine throughout the aging process. Over time, the cheese will age from somewhat firm, chalky, and crumbly around one month to creamy throughout at two months, then very soft, spreadable, and extremely pungent at three months of age. (In the Amish community, Limburger is sometimes known as "stink cheese.") Younger blocks of Limburger may have a few small eyes, or holes, in the interior of the cheese.
How Limburger Is Made
Raw cow's milk is heated and pasteurized in large vats. Cultures are added to lower the pH of the milk, and then rennet is added to coagulate it into curd. The curd is cut into small pieces, then drained and shaped into Limburger's signature small, brick-like blocks. The blocks are aged from one to three months, during which time the exterior of the wheels is washed in a salt brine. This cultivates Brevibacterium linens, the microbe responsible for this cheese's powerful aroma and rind color. The aged blocks are then wrapped in foil to contain their aroma and protect the cheese before being sold.
Other semisoft, washed rind cheeses with a similar colored rind and similar age (one to three months) can be substituted for Limburger. Liederkranz, a similar cheese made in America, has a milder but still powerful aroma and can stand in for it in recipes. Italian Taleggio or Maroilles, a French washed-rind cheese, are other milder alternatives.
Another possible substitute, Herve cheese, or Fromage de Herve, has been produced in the Limburger region of Belgium since the 15th century. This raw milk cheese has Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
Limburger may be eaten as part of a cheese board with bread, pickles, and other accompaniments. It's often eaten with strawberry jam. Soft, ripe Limburger is traditionally spread onto sandwiches with dark bread, sliced onions, and spicy brown mustard. It can also be used in grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, gratins, or other recipes where a soft, rich melting cheese with big flavor is needed. This cheese pairs well with lagers, Trappist ales, and dark, flavorful beers like stouts and porters.
Store unopened packages of Limburger cheese in your refrigerator. After opening, rewrap the cheese in its original packaging, or wrap the block tightly in waxed paper or parchment paper before placing it in an unsealed plastic sandwich bag or plastic storage container. Place the cheese in your cheese drawer or crisper to protect it from the drying air in your refrigerator. Limburger can be stored this way for two to three weeks. Freezing is not recommended for Limburger, as the freezing and thawing process can damage the texture of the cheese.
If you see mold growing on the cut surface of the cheese, cut around the mold thoroughly with a paring knife, taking care to avoid running the knife through the mold, which can spread it to the rest of the block.
- German Noodle-Cheese Casserole (German Käsespätzle)
- Potato Gratin (German Kartoffelgratin)
- Romanian Pork Cordon Bleu
Can You Eat the Rind?
While Limburger's washed rind contributes to its well-known aroma, its flavor is relatively mild and should be eaten.