Limburger is the kind of cheese that you will either love or hate. Few remain indifferent to it.
What is it exactly?
Limburger cheese (aka Limburger Käse) is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind, straw yellow color and a very smooth texture.
Many are simply enamored with Limburger yet for others their first taste of the cheese is their last. Why so?
Limburger Cheese Smell
Limburger is a stinky cheese. Not necessarily the stinkiest out there, not even close. It simply has a very specific smell to it that many people simply cannot handle. It is often said that it is the type of smell and not its intensity that people disagree with.
You see, Limburger’s smell reminds one of the odor of stinky feet.
The reason for that is the workings of a bacterial species with which Limburger cheese is smear-ripened. It is called Brevibacterium linens and is also present on the human skin. In a moist environment it produces the same smell.
Limburger Cheese Taste
Given the nature of its smell, taste-wise the cheese surprises with very pleasant grassy and earthy flavors. Some hints of mushrooms and a very mild tangy finish. A comparative way of addressing the texture and taste of Limburger is to emphasize a strong resemblance to ripe brie or raclette.
Its high fat content gloriously coats the tongue and makes the cheese a great partner to sharper flavors such as the astringent bite of onions. We happen to love it!
Brief History and How It Is Made
Limburger cheese hails from a region in Europe known as the Duchy of Limbourg as far back as the days of the Roman Empire. Today the area is known as the province of Liège in the Walloon region of Belgium. Parts of the former duchy actually fall in the territory of today’s Germany and the Netherlands.
The creation of the cheese itself dates back to the early 19th century and is credited to a Trappist monk. Leave it to the Belgian holy men to make a cheese that simply screams to be paired with an effervescent flavorful beer, right? (For beer pairings see the list under the recipe card).
Currently Germany is the largest European and worldwide producer and Limburger is generally considered to be an all German cheese, despite its history. It is so well loved in the country that its annual consumption rivals that of Muenster, Butterkäse and Camembert.
In the US currently there is only one manufacturer of the cheese and it is, of course, located in Wisconsin. The Chalet Cheese Co-op in Monroe makes a fine Limburger and honors the traditional method of hand salting the curd and smearing the shaped cheese blocks with the landmark bacterial solution.
The cheese is then left in a ripening cellar for three months until it matures. The Brevibacterium linens breaks down the proteins in the cheese causing it to soften from its originally firm and crumbly, feta like texture and imparts the infamous smell.
Watch this short video about how Limburger cheese is made if you are interested.
How to Eat Limburger Cheese
- The Limburger sandwich is by far the most popular way to consume this rich cheese. Sandwich a generous piece of it along with thinly sliced raw onion rings between rye bread slices and enjoy with a beer or with strong coffee. This way of consuming the cheese is still very popular in Germany and used to be a popular working man’s lunch in America circa the late 1800s and early 1900s. Then Prohibition saw demand for the cheese slow down significantly as those working men couldn’t wash down their favorite lunch with a pint.
- Make our recipe for Limburger cheese salad as traditionally served in many of Germany’s beer gardens. A fresh soft Bavarian pretzel and a bite of the cheese marinated in a sherry vinaigrette is a delightful combination. Chris and I personally vouch for that.
- Limburger cheese spread – use this Obatzda recipe and substitute the Camembert with Limburger.
- Incorporate the sliced cheese in cheese boards and be sure to have a good beer selection for pairing. We included it in our German Meat and Cheese Board not long ago paired with Schwarzbier.
NOTE: Limburger cheese should be consumed shortly after purchased. The bacteria continue to work after the three months of ageing and unless you are very adventurous and actually crave an even more robust stinky
feet cheese smell (the flavor doesn’t really become intolerable) it is best to eat it shortly after you brought it home.
Recommended Beer Pairings
Beer and its unmatched carbonation is definitely the beverage of choice to pair with Limburger cheese. It effortlessly cuts through its fatty richness and stands up to its aroma and flavor in a uniquely cleansing interaction courtesy of the tongue scrubbing like impact of the fine carbonation bubbles.
Look among the flavor intense German and Belgian styles as the best partners for Limburger cheese.
German styles we recommend:
- Bavarian Hefeweizen (absolutely delightful pairing, we enjoyed the traditionally brewed, multi-award winning weissbier of Prost Brewing Company in creating this post)
- dark German lagers such as bock, schwarzbier and dunkel
- the lighter lagers such as German pilsner and helles, but also Marzen when it is in season (the amber Oktoberfest beers seem to be getting lighter and lighter in recent years) – the Noble hops bitterness balancing these lagers complements the grassy notes of Limburger in a most delightful way.
Flavorful Belgian styles with excellent carbonation to consider:
- Belgian blonde ales
- Belgian pale
- Belgian tripels
Limburger Cheese Salad
- 12 oz Limburger cheese
- 2 tbsp vegetable or sunflower seeds oil
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced in rings
- 2 tbsp sweet paprika (such as Hungarian)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp caraway seeds as a finishing touch
- Slice the Limburger cheese in 1/4 inch thick pieces and arrange onto a serving plate.
- Mix the sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and oil to make a vinaigrette. Pour it over the sliced Limburger and let it sit for about 30 minutes to marinate. (Due to the strong smell you may want to refrigerate it while marinating, perhaps even covered with another plate or a suitable lid).
- When ready to serve on a small plate make a layer of paprika and dip one side of the thinly sliced onion rings in paprika. Then arrange onto the marinated cheese slices, paprika coated side up.
- Finish off with a sprinkle of caraway seeds and enjoy!
Where to Buy Limburger Cheese
You can find Limburger cheese for sale in the specialty cheeses cooler of your grocery store, at dairy/cheese shops and even on Amazon!
Besides the Wisconsin made cheese sold under the brand Country Castle I referred to earlier there are several German brands that are regularly imported in the US. Of those the Bavarian made St. Mang is the most popular.
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