Raclette is very popular in Europe, especially in the Swiss Alps and other ski regions. And that’s where it’s said Raclette came from.
While Switzerland supplies 80% of Raclettes, French Raclettes are slightly softer with a smooth and creamy flavour. Raclette is also the name of a Swiss dish where the cheese is melted in front of a fire or a special machine and the melted parts are scraped onto diner’s plates. It is then served with small potatoes, gherkins, pickled onions and air-dried meat called Viande des Grisons. Raclette comes in round and square shapes and can be served with Vin de Savoie.
Today, few houses have an open fireplace, so to simulate the process we now have Raclette Melter that hold a block or half wheel of cheese under a heating element. Once melted, the cheese is being scraped off onto the prepared potatoes.
Another variety is a Raclette Grill, which allows melting individual portions of cheese and offers a grill top to serve grilled vegetables, meat, chicken, or fish with the cheese. Many of these models come with a reversible grill top that can be used to make crepes or pancakes. And yet another variety can be converted into a mini pizza oven.
A Traditional Raclette Recipe
This simple raclette recipe should be the first you try on your raclette grill or raclette melter. Serves 4
- 8 small/medium potatoes
- 1.5 lb. Raclette Cheese
- Buendnerfleisch (cut in paper-thin slices)
- 1 jar pickled gherkin cucumbers (cornichons)
- 1 jar pickled onions
- freshly ground pepper
Wash potatoes and, with skins on, boil in a pot filled with salted water for about 20 min. Test with a knife if the potatoes are done. Keep warm until ready to use in an insulated potato basket. In the meantime remove the rind of the cheese and cut into 1/16″ thick slices using a adjustable wire slicer. Arrange gherkins, onions, and Buendnerfleisch on a platter and set aside until required. Turn raclette on to begin to heat up (allow for at least 5 minutes before using). For raclette grills: Each guest takes a slice of cheese, places it in their pan and slides it under the raclette grill to melt. It takes approximately 2 minutes to melt to a creamy consistency and 3 minutes for a more crispier top. In the meantime take a potato, place onto your plate and cut it into a few pieces, remove the pan from under the grill once it’s reached its preferred consistency and hold the pan onto its side to scrape the cheese out, using your wooden spatula. For raclette melter, each guest prepares potatoes and side dishes on their plates. When the cheese starts melting on the wheel, scrape the cheese onto the plate. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and paprika. Pair Grand Cru Raclette with Pinot Grigio, Fendant, a Swiss white wine, or a light, fruity red wine, such as Beaujolais.
If you go to the La Mancha region in central Spain, home to the famous Don Quixote, you’ll have the pleasure of tasting queso Manchego, or Manchego cheese. Of course, you can sample this cheese in other parts of the country, and even abroad, but there is nothing like nibbling on the real thing in the land of its origin.
This cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk, and aged no less than 60 days, has got a lot of history behind it. Archeological digs have turned up evidence suggesting that this very unique cheese was being made well before the time of Christ. One of the main purposes of making cheese in the past was to persevere the milk and the health benefits derived from dairy, since refrigeration wasn’t available at the time.
These days, only very special ewes (female sheep) are used in the Manchego cheese making process. The queso is actually protected by the Spanish Government with a ‘Denominación de Origen,’ which means only certain cheeses can be labeled as Manchego cheese. For this tasty and buttery cheese to be called ‘Manchego,’ it has to come from La Mancha. Only the fatty milk from authentic Manchega ewes, which are descended from sheep that have been roaming these lands for centuries, can be used to create the cheese. And the cheese itself must be aged in local caves.
The technical cheese making process consists of milking the ewes by hand, and then putting the milk in curdling vats, where natural curdling enzymes are added to the mix. Then the cheese curd is sliced up into tiny bits and aged. If you ask any of the locals what is the most important aspect in making Manchego cheese, you’re sure to get different answers, but aging the cheese, and the special nature of Manchega ewes will be sure to top the list.
If all of the above requirements are met, you still have a choice between classic Manchego cheese that comes from unpasteurized milk, and the kind that comes from pasteurized milk. In addition to these basic distinctions, you can also select quesos of different ages. Manchego cheese is well-known for its creamy texture, but the flavor varies between the semi-cured Manchego Curado and the richer Manchego Viejo. There is even a fresh cheese, Manchego Fresco, you can buy and sample before it has completed the aging process. The best thing for you to do is to head to La Mancha and try all of these wonderful cheeses for yourself.
Today I found out that Manchego cheese actually has such a high proportion of proteins that is in fact even richer in proteins than meat! That’s great news for all the veggies out there.
Proteins are the building blocks of life. The body needs protein to repair cells and make new ones. Furthermore, protein is also important for growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy (and Manchego is a safe cheese for a preggo to eat!).
So now you know, next time you fancy some Manchego, stop feeling guilty about it. Yes, it might be rich in calories, but it’s good for you too!
LOW IN LACTOSE
Like all hard cheeses, Manchego is naturally low in lactose. Additionally, being made with sheep’s milk – which has a lower percentage of lactose than cow’s milk – makes it more suitable for sensitive stomachs.
Furthermore, as the longer a cheese is aged the less lactose it has, and Manchego can be aged for up to 2 years, lactic sensitive people have the perfect alibi to reach for the most exquisite of all Manchegos: the most aged ones.
THOUSANDS OF YEARS IN THE MAKING
Manchego is one of the world’s cheeses with the most valuable history and heritage. That’s a well-known fact.
But, did you know that Pre-Historic men and women already enjoyed the pleasures of fine Manchego cheese?
Yes, as locals tell it, archeological remains dating back to the Bronze age show that the inhabitants of La Mancha used to make a sheep’s milk cheese with the milk of a race of sheep that’s considered the ancestor of our modern Manchega sheep. Weren’t they clever!
Of course, we don’t know what methods our ancestors used to make this natural product, but we could assume that their cheese tasted very much like ours, and that their cheesemaking methods were most probably similar too.
Next time you queue up to buy your Manchego think about those cave men & women who were already in the know. When a little pleasure survives the turn of so many centuries it must mean it’s worth passing it on!
HOW TO CUT MANCHEGO CHEESE
Now you are home staring at the cheese and wondering what would be the best way to cut a wedge out of it without destroying the masterpiece.
Have you been there? If so, here’s how to do it properly in a few simple steps:
- Cut the cheese in two halves.
- Cut a wedge out of one the halves – You should only cut as much as you plan to eat.
- Take the bottom bit of rind off.
- Cut it into slices about 5mm (1/4”) thick.
- Serve – if possible – at room temperature. Manchego cheeses taste their best at 68°
Jarlsberg is often referred to as a type of Swiss or Baby Swiss cheese. It actually originated in Norway, but it’s a direct descendant of the great Swiss Emmentaler — the classic “Swiss” cheese with the large holes.
So, the story goes, Emmentaler cheese was introduced into Scandinavia around 1830, and within 20 years the Norwegians had adapted the recipe and were producing their own nutty, waxy, large-holed cheese in the county of Jarlsberg.
As the 20th century progressed, however, the holes started to disappear, even though the same manufacturing process was used. Food scientists finally figured out that the eyes and particular flavor of Emmental-style cheese were the result of a bacteria called propionibacterium, which was naturally present in the milk.
This particular bacteria eats away at lactic acid and produces carbon dioxide as the cheese ages, which forms the familiar air bubbles in the cheese. This would explain why neither Emmentaler nor Jarlsberg has a tangy taste.
As dairies began to be more concerned with sanitation and the milk began to undergo pasteurization, most of these bacteria were killed off, changing the nature of the cheese.
The modern version of Jarlsberg we find today was developed in the late 1950s at the Dairy Institute at the Agricultural University of Norway. This was a center of cheese research, and Jarlsberg was retooled to be a cross between Norwegian Gouda and Emmental, a smaller, softer, sweeter version of the Swiss mountain masterpiece.
The researchers began adding the propionibacterium back to the milk, selecting for a new strain that was compatible with the higher salt content of a Gouda.
Eventually they got it right, and Jarlsberg, by the pound, is the largest-selling imported cheese in the United States today. It is produced according to the very scientifically-controlled recipe in Norway, under license in Ohio (using the special bacterial culture shipped from Norway), and in Ireland by Diarygold.
Wheels of Jarlsberg cheeses are far smaller than Emmentaler, weighing about 22 pounds compared with Emmental’s 150-pound or larger wheels.
If you enjoy Jarlsberg, it is available online in light, 1-year aged, and smoked varieties.
Jarlsberg is available in most grocery cheese cases, is not terribly expensive, and is very suited to cooking. Anywhere you would use Swiss cheese, try Jarlsberg.
1 Jarlsberg Lite cheese
1 cup instant potato flakes
½ teaspoon each black pepper and garlic powder
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1) Preheat oven to 375°. Mix cheese with potato and seasonings; add broth and mix.
2) For lacy, crispy dippers, sprinkle mixture evenly on parchment-lined or (oil-sprayed) foil lining a 10×10-inch baking pan. Bake 25 minutes or until brown around the edges. Break into free-form pieces.
3) For a more solid, flexible dipper, spread mixture on parchment or foil, patting down for an even layer. Bake 35 minutes or until beginning to brown. Invert on wire rack, peel off parchment and return to pan to bake 10 minutes more. Cut into 2-inch squares. Serve with your favorite salsa. Makes 25 pieces.
When we think about Danish cheeses, we often think about Danish Blue, Esrom, Danbo… but, by far the most popular cheese that is exported from Denmark is Havarti.
Havarti is a semi-soft cheese, which has a creamy buttery flavor. It goes great on the cheese board with figs and sliced bread, or melted atop a sandwich. But, what else do we know about this cheese?
The Origins of Havarti
As noted above, Havarti is a Danish cheese; but the inspiration of this delicious treat comes from one woman’s travels around Europe during the mid 1800s. The commonly accepted story is that Hanne Nielsen was the wife of a New Zealand farmer that was extremely interested in learning about cheesemaking; and, in addition to traveling around Europe, learning different techniques, she set up a farm where she perfected her craft. The town where she set up her experimental farm, called Havarthigaard, is located north of Copenhagen; and, during the mid 1900s, became the source of Havarti’s name. (Source: Havarti Cheese Production and Uses)
What is Creamy Havarti?
Creamy Havarti (flødehavarti) is different from what would be considered the “original” Havarti, in that it is made with highly pasteurized milk, such that the whey proteins are not separated from the cheese curds; so, the end product is a lot richer and creamier.
The “original” Havarti is very similar to Swiss cheese in flavor and texture–but also, in that it is typically aged around 3 months. Creamy Havarti cannot be ripened for very long because the whey protein doesn’t age very well.
The Havarti Experience
If you go to the supermarket, you will often find that there are many different kinds of Havarti. Much like chevre, this cheese is sold in varieties with fruits and/or herbs and spices, as well as original flavor. Some of the varieties you may find include cranberry, garlic, caraway, basil, coconut, and sour cream & chives; but, by far the most popular ones are dill, red pepper, and jalapeño.
Havarti is truly versatile. It is an excellent table cheese and is great on sandwiches and salads. It is a great melting cheese so, fondue and paninis should not be overlooked.
Looking for a great wine to pair with Havarti? It goes really well with just about any wine, but goes particularly well with sweet wines like Beaujolais and Riesling. If you’re going pick a red wine, try to keep with lighter-bodied wines.
Havarti is certainly one of my favorite cheeses–and, I think it was one of the very first cheeses I tried when I started John Eats Cheese. If you’re looking to learn more about cheese or are looking for unintimidating cheese to start with on your journey of fromage exploration pick up some crackers and Creamy Havarti, and go to town.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good Alfredo. It’s rich, it’s oh so yummy. And why shouldn’t we love it? It has all the goodness of butter, cream and Parmesan. Creamy. Cheesy. Yummy. So today we’re taking good old Alfredo sauce and making a chicken pasta bake. And we’ll add more cheese plus other stuff to make a great summer pasta casserole.
So if you’re wanting cheese, this is your dish! This makes a huge serving to go around and it heats up well. It’ll make that wet squishy sound when you mix it all up, a sign of tons of creamy cheesy power. It’ll give you long strands of cheese when you dish a serving. The kind that you’ll want to run your finger along to break. And it’ll more than satisfy your cheese craving.
The great thing about this is how you can customize it to save you time. The best Alfredo sauce from scratch but you can use store-bought sauce. If you don’t like poached chicken, grill it. Or buy some rotisserie chicken and chop it up. And you can practically use any kind of pasta you want. Generally, penne is deal for bakes but there’s ziti and rigatoni.
Make sure to cook the pasta until the point just before it turns al dente. Then rinse it under cold water to stop the cooking process. Because if it continues cooking in the cheese sauce in the oven, it’ll get slightly mushy and mushy pasta is no fun…. to avoid this, finish off the al dente process in the oven. However, if you don’t mind or even like mushy pasta, then keep on cooking that pasta until it’s al dente, your choice…
There’s a lot of ricotta to go around, as you can see. So if you’re not big on it, you can halve the ricotta and egg portion before mixing it in with everything. Some people like it, some people don’t, again, your choice…
So really, if you’re looking for a fairly quick, but delicious meal idea for lunch or dinner, this one’s for you, as the amount of time it takes from start to eat is just under and hour…. not bad at all… Or if you’re a family of four and you want something for two days, here you go. And if you have a huge family, have at it. This can serve up to ten servings. The cheese is not stingy!
- 16 oz. penne/ziti/rigatoni pasta
- 2 cups Alfredo sauce
- 8 oz. sour cream
- 3 cups poached/grilled/rotisserie chicken, cubed
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Cook the pasta till just before al dente
- Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process
- If you’re making Alfredo sauce from scratch, see notes
- Mix pasta with the Alfredo sauce, sour cream and chicken
- Combine ricotta, garlic, eggs, Parmesan and parsley and mix throughly
- Season the pasta mix with salt and pepper to taste
- Add the ricotta mixture to the pasta and stir to combine
- Top with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese
- Bake in a 9×13 casserole dish at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until bubbly
- Broil at 450 degrees F for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown
- Serve hot
Gouda, or “How-da” as the locals say, is a Dutch cheese named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands. If truth be told, it is one of the most popular cheeses in the world, accounting for 50 to 60 percent of the world’s cheese consumption. It is a semi-hard cheese celebrated for its rich, unique flavour and smooth texture. The original cheese markets in Gouda is one of the last standing commercial cheese markets in the Netherlands. Since the name is not protected, it has become a generic classification for all cheeses produced and sold under the name Gouda.
Gouda is typically made from pasteurised cow’s milk although some artisan varieties use sheep’s or goat’s milk to produce cheeses that are going to be aged for a long time. Boerenkaas is a typical variety of unpasteurised Gouda cheese produced by the farmers from milk of cow’s grazing on the natural, low pastures of Netherlands. There are seven different types of Gouda cheese, categorized depending on age. Graskaas is young Gouda ready to be consumed within weeks of production. On the other hand, is the extra aged, Overjarig cheese which has a full-flavoured, hard, golden interior and salty flavour reminiscent of a toffee. Between the spectrums is a variety of Dutch Gouda’s classified as per the texture and age – Jong, Jong belegen, Belegen, Extra belegen, and Oud. Each cheese gets increasingly firmer in texture and richer in flavour than earlier classification. The waxed rind of the cheese also changes by the age as soft, younger Dutch Gouda cheese are identified by yellow, orange, or red wax rinds white mature cheese have black wax coverings.
In America, smoother and less flavorful commercial Gouda is popular than Dutch Gouda. Artisans in Netherlands may produce Dutch Gouda using raw milk as well as pasteurized. To enhance the flavor of the cheese, herbs, seasonings, and nuts may be blended. In Netherlands, aged Gouda is commonly used to richen soups, sauces.
Young Goudas are best paired with beer while medium cheeses taste best when paired with a fruity Riesling or Chenin Blanc. A well aged Gouda complements wines that are deeply flavored such as a rich Merlot or Shiraz. Gouda cheese may be grated, sliced, cubed or melted. It may be used as a table cheese or dessert cheese.
SMOKED GOUDA MASHED POTATOES
Fancying up mashed potatoes can take a plain Jane dish and make it a stand out yummy. Sorry if your name is Jane. What better to make something stand out than smoked gouda? Oh baby. It’s yummy. Add 1 cup for a hint of smokey goodness, and 2 cups for a heavier handed approach. Or maybe your tastes will fall somewhere in between. This is a fabulous twist on your standard taters. Live a little, right?
Time to Make It: about 30 minutes
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
6 large russet potatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup butter
4 oz cream cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 to 2 cups shredded smoked Gouda Cheese
1. Bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large stockpot. (If you need more liquid to cover your potatoes, you can add in water.)
2. Meanwhile, peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut them into bite-size pieces. Pace them in the chicken broth. Return to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of pieces.
3. Drain the liquid from the potatoes. Add in butter, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Use a hand mixer to whip until smooth, or mash together with a potato masher until cheese and butter are melted.
4. Mix in the Smoked Gouda until cheese is melted. Serve hot.
INSALATA CAPRESE: THE ENDURING STYLE OF ITALIAN CUISINE
No one can quite say when or where the most famously simple of all salads — the insalata caprese — first appeared on the scene, or the exact origin of when it was named after that beautiful sun-soaked isle of Capri, part of very historic Campania region. But one thing we do know is that it is absolutely one of the most enduring of all Italian antipasti and so evocative of those heady days of fun, vino and romance along the Mediterranean coast. (Speaking of fabulous Italian things, be sure to check out the recent post Studio of Style did on Campari.) Of course, the famed tricolor look of the dish which, like the equally famed Margherita pizza of Napoli, depict the colors of the Italian flag. But let’s dig a little bit deeper into history, okay? (We know how you regular readers of Studio of Style just love a little bit more of everything, right?) First of all, so much of the world associates Italian cuisine with that wonderful deep red tomato sauce found on many dishes — but wait! The word “pomodoro” from the words “pomo d’oro” or “golden apple” doesn’t quite match up with the color red, now does it? That’s because the first tomatoes brought to Europe from the New World (i.e. The Americas) were actually more likely to have been yellow than red! More on that in a moment. But some say that “pomo d’oro” might also be a mistranslation of the phrase “pomo di moro” or “fruit of the Moors” who had introduced so many exotic foods to Italy. You see, it was Italian physician and botanist Pietro Andrea Mattioli who wrote in 1544 that a new type of eggplant had been brought to Italy which was blood red or golden in color that could be eaten like an eggplant — and 10 years later Mattioli used the words “pomo d’oro” in print. The yellow variety of the tomato definitely made landfall in Europe sometime after 1521 when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtítlan in Mexico — though Christopher Columbus of Genoa (who was also working on behalf of the Spanish monarchy) might very well have brought some back around 1493! And did you know that the earliest known Italian cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples (naturally!) around 1692 — most likely the recipes were translated from Spanish sources. Thus, by a slight twist of history the famed marinara sauces became red and not yellow (but the name “golden apple” still stuck!). But the bigger question is: who put together that amazing combination of basil, mozzarella di bufala, tomatoes and olive oil — crowned with a light sprinkling of salt and black pepper — a combo that epicureans have been raving about ever since? To enjoy this antipasto to the fullest, try to find the freshest handmade mozzarella, the ripest seasonal tomatoes, absolutely fresh basil, the best extra virgin olive oil and high quality salt and freshly ground black pepper (and please, novinegar of any kind!!). Said perhaps one of the most famous Italians of all history, Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” And how right he was…and still is! The simple yet profound pleasures found in insalata caprese transcend time itself! And in the words of so many Italians throughout the ages: Mangia bene, vivi felice!
Once again, you can see the colors of the italian flag in this dish. Insalata Caprese is one of my all time favorite salads. I like to serve it over a bed of fresh spinach. Refreshing and light!
The word mozzarella comes from the italian verb “mozzare” which means to cut. Mozzarella di bufala is made from the milk of the domestic water buffalo, a bovine which has it origins in Asia but is now found in southern Europe, South America, Northern Africa and India among others. Mozzarella di bufala is a bit saltier and softer than regular cow’s milk mozzarella. The best quality is considered by many Mozzarella di Bufala di Campania made in the geographical areas of Lazio (near Rome) and Campania (Naples, Salerno, Paestum, Pompeii, including Capri) Regions which became protected by the European Union under Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC like in wines) in the 1990’s. It literally melts in your mouth! In short, mozzarella is made by heating the milk (to separate the whey form the curds), resting, spinning and pulling the cheese curds to shape into balls. The cheese maker will knead the curds like bread by hand, pull-out and cut the mozzarella balls once the cheese curds have reached the desired consistency. This is a semisoft cheese and has a high moisture content. That is why it is sold in specialty food shops in brine and vacuum sealed. On the other hand, good quality mozzarella di bufala is made in many other countries in Europe and the Americas.
Insalata Caprese (salad made in the style of Capri) can also be called Tricolore Salad which also includes avocado. If you want to splurge (it is more expensive than regular mozzarella) and the best flavor and quality, use mozzarella di bufala when you make homemade pizza. Use it as a topping or make Insalata Caprese Pizza. It is amazing!
Instructions on making Insalata Caprese…
2 7 ounce mozzarella di bufala balls
2-3 Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pepper to taste
Drizzle of good quality aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
1. Slice mozzarella and tomatoes. In a plate, alternate placing one slice of tomato over each slice of mozzarella.
2. In a small bowl, place the chopped basil with olive oil, salt and pepper and stir with a spoon.
3. Spoon mixture over mozzarella and tomatoes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.
4. Enjoy this delicious and healthy dish!
“Limburger—Don’t Eat It with Your Nose.” So reads the sign above the bar at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern in Monroe, Wisconsin: the only city in America where Limburger cheese is still made.
Limburger has been the butt of jokes for nearly a century, though to be honest, it smells more like feet. Past celebrities from Mark Twain to Charlie Chaplin have used it as comedic fodder, and on a visit to Baumgartner’s, comedian Larry the Cable Guy spat out his sample, declaring that it tasted like a dead possum. But Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods,” loves the stuff.
Truth be told, there are far more challenging food products on the planet…like Iceland’s hákarl or China’s “century egg.” Even in the cheese world, Limburger pales in comparison to pillars of pungency like Époisses or Stinking Bishop…but the more famous Limburger’s reputation lives on.
History of Limburger: Who Came Up With This Stuff?
As European food products go, Limburger hasn’t been around all that long. It was first made in the 19th century by Trappist monks near Liège in the Duchy of Limburg (a territory now divided between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany). Before you joke about the stinky cheese helping the monks maintain their cloistered lifestyle, bear in mind that the Trappists are also known for making some of the very finest beers in the world. Today, most of the Limburger in Europe is made in Germany.
Limburger was first made in the U.S. in 1867 by Swiss immigrants in Green County, Wisconsin. In this epicenter of Swiss cheesemaking, Limburger even outpaced Swiss in annual production by the 1920s in order to supply the German-speaking populations of places like New York and Cincinnati, where a Limburger sandwich was a favorite workingman’s lunch: cheap and typically washed down with a glass of beer. Apparently it was nearly unthinkable to eat Limburger without the accompanying brew, because Prohibition so hurt American sales of Limburger that production either ceased or sharply curtailed in most American cheese factories.
Farm to Table in Monroe
Today the only American producer of Limburger is Chalet Cheese Cooperative of Monroe, Wisconsin: the seat of Green County. Of the 56 Master Cheesemakers in Wisconsin, only Chalet’s Myron Olson is certified to make Limburger.
Founded in 1885 by five dairy farmers, Chalet Cheese Cooperative today is owned and operated by 21 member farms. Olson, who started working there at age 17, has managed the plant for more than 20 years. Because he uses only milk from the Cooperative’s member farms (comprising 70% Holstein and 30% Brown Swiss cows), he knows exactly where the milk is coming from and the qualities it will contribute to the final product. He also believes the limestone-filtered water of south-central Wisconsin helps make the best-quality cheese to be found anywhere in the world.
Olson doesn’t just make Limburger, either; certified in other styles, he has won numerous state and national awards for Swiss, Baby Swiss and smoked versions of both. He also makes the very mellow Brick cheese as well as an award-winning German-Style Brick: a close cousin to Limburger, with the same bacterial smear used for ripening it.
Wait…did you say bacteria?
A Smeared Reputation
Limburger is one of a number of smear-ripened, washed-rind cheeses. Washed-rind cheeses are cured in a saltwater brine which may or may not include things like beer, wine, and spirits. Periodically washing the cheese with this solution keeps the surface moist and hospitable to bacteria like Brevibacterium linens, which happens to be the very same bacterium responsible for human body odor—specifically foot odor. So if someone tells you Limburger smells like sweaty gym socks, they are technically correct.
Of course, the food world is full of examples of beneficial bacteria. Microorganisms like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus give yogurt its distinctive tang and break down lactose to make it easier to digest. In the case of Limburger, a healthy smear of B. linens helps the maturing process and prevents the growth of undesirable molds. Other smear-ripened cheeses include the French Port Salut and Munster (not the mild, red-rind Muenster we’re familiar with, but a much funkier variety). The bacterial culture used at Chalet was first cultivated in 1911.
Limburger as we know it was nearly eradicated in the U.S., ironically by the company that built the Chalet plant and was founded by the man who “cleaned up” cheese in America.
J.L. Kraft invented processed cheese through a patented pasteurization process, which allowed his cheese to be shipped long distances. Kraft’s Mohawk Valley Limburger Spread was a nationwide hit, and in 1947 his company built what they considered the most cutting-edge Limburger plant in the world (which Chalet now uses). In the name of progress and sanitation the Kraft folks replaced the plant’s old pine curing boards with new ones. The cheese failed. Luckily, they had saved the old boards—which have been in use ever since—and the century-old colony of B. linens continues to work its bacterial magic.
The Three Stages of Limburger
“That old bac magic” takes awhile, and despite the overwhelming aroma encountered at Chalet during the cheesemaking process, fresh Limburger is not all that intimidating. In fact, it’s even downright mild in its infancy, and only develops its nasty temperament over time…with a little help from temperature. Limburger is dated to expire in six months; using the “Best if used by” date on the package as your guide, you can age your own Limburger in the fridge at home to suit your personal taste. We can break down the metamorphosis of Limburger into three stages:
Stage 1 (Beginner): If you like things on the mild side, eat it fresh out of the fridge, and as soon as possible after you buy it. When the cheese is only a few weeks old, it’s mild and crumbly—a bit like feta—with a bit of a yeasty smell. Like all washed-rind cheeses, Limburger ripens from the outside in…and since the rind contains most of the funk, cut it off before serving.
Stage 2 (Intermediate): Two to three months before expiration, Limburger is rich and creamy, and just starting to stink…like Brie with an attitude. Let it come to room temperature before serving for maximum flavor. The rind is edible, but does add strength. You can wash it and dry it if you wish to remove some of the odor.
Stage 3 (Hardcore): At four or more months, you’ve got weapons-grade Limburger—soft, almost runny, and in full-on sweaty sock mode. Remember that six-month expiration date? Diehards see that as a starting point, and even take it out of the fridge periodically to speed up the process. Just remember: it smells far worse than it tastes. Even at this stage, the flavor is not as sharp as aged Cheddar or as pungent as blue cheese. It’s very robust and rich. As they say at Baumgartner’s, “don’t eat it with your nose”; just pop it in your mouth and enjoy.
Limburger Recipes and Serving Tips
Because its unique aroma tends to overpower most foods, Limburger is not really considered a “recipe” cheese…although the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and a cult of fans will beg to differ.
The classic way to serve Limburger is on rye bread with sliced red onion and brown horseradish mustard or sweet-hot mustard. A lot of folks love it with strawberry jam, either as the sole condiment (especially at Stage 2) or in addition to mustard.
Baumgartner’s serves the full-strength Limburger on their famous sandwich (as above, no jam), or for true believers they’ll add a couple of thick slabs of locally made braunschweiger (liver sausage). And they always serve it with a breath mint, though that’s somewhat like the proverbial Band-Aid on a bullet wound.
Unless you have pretty adventurous friends, you’re probably not serving Limburger at a wine tasting party. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but Limburger is a workingman’s cheese; it goes best with beer, preferably bock (a hearty, often dark, variety). At Baumgartner’s, locals get the full Monroe terroir by enjoying Limburger with Huber Bock from the Minhas Brewery right down the street. A porter or stout would certainly do the trick, too—think dark and flavorful.
The bottom line is: if you’re a real cheese lover or someone who craves a little adventure, you owe it to yourself to put Limburger on your food bucket list. Stop by Shisler’s Cheese House and make this bucket list item a reality and pick up your own share of Limburger Cheese!
HISTORY OF GRUYERE CHEESE
Gruyere cheese has a history as rich and nutty as its flavor. This is a cheese so good and so fascinating that countries went to war over it! Yes, you read that right… war.
Gruyere’s identity crisis
Is Gruyere a Swiss cheese? Is it French? Is it Austrian? It is hard to know. Medieval peasants developed this variety of cow’s milk cheese as a means of survival. It was developed in the mountainous town of Gruyeres, Switzerland (making it Swiss Cheese by its geographic origins). However, since the town is so close to the Franco-Swiss border, there are many similar varieties of cheese, including Comte and Beaufort, that are made in France that still fall under the umbrella term of Gruyere. To complicate matters even further, there is yet another variety of Gruyere cheese that originates on the Austrian side of the Alps. The Austrian variety is similar to the Swiss variety in taste, color, and texture. Regardless of the country of origin, there is no doubting that this creamy, sweet, and nutty cheese is nothing short of spectacularly delicious. Cheese this good is worthy of a distinction all its own; perhaps it is best to simply refer to Gruyere as an Alpine cheese.
The Gruyere War
Few things bring about international disharmony more than cheese. This was one time when the Swiss absolutely did not remain neutral. Cheese makers in France and Switzerland went to battle for three years over which country made the best Gruyere cheese. Both countries claimed to have exclusive rights to the “Controlled Designation of Origin” for Gruyere. Since both varieties of cheese have distinctly different taste and appearance, this caused a problem. The French believed they deserved the distinction since their cheese was more widely recognized. The Swiss argued that the cheese is named after a region on their side of the border, and they had been making the cheese longer. The debate was so heated the European Union (EU) had to step in to mediate. The EU decided in favor of the Swiss since the origination of the cheese came from Switzerland.
The Gruyere timeline
Gruyere cheese has a long and storied history dating back many centuries. Here are but a few of the highlights of this storied cheese.
The 12th Century
The region of Gruyere has been producing their namesake cheese since the early twelfth century. The inhabitants of the area during that time found a way to produce the cheese from the excess milk that was produced by their cows. They were eventually able to sell their cheese to people in France and Italy.
The 17th Century
The seventeenth century brought with it official recognition of the regional name of the cheese. It was around this time that the exportation of the cheese began to take off. Since its popularity was beginning to grow, the concern for the protection of its origin also began to take root. But, not until the 1762 was the word that specified its origin entered into the dictionary of the Académie Francaise.
The 18th and 19th Centuries
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many people from the town of Fribourg, Switzerland immigrated to the Gruyere region. This movement extended the geographic production zone of Gruyere cheese to the neighboring villages of Vaud, Neuchatel, Jura, and some areas of France. However, there was no trade protection in place, and the cheese was often imitated. By the mid-nineteenth century, a campaign toward structuring trade and a fight for recognizing designation of origin was begun.
The 20th and 21st Centuries
Discussions regarding Gruyere cheese took place in Madrid in 1891, Paris in 1926, and Rome in 1930. The result of these meetings was an agreement to protect the denominations of goods and their origins. However, it was not until 2001 that Gruyere cheese was awarded “Controlled Designation of Origin” protection, which regulates the methods of locations of the production of the product in Switzerland. In 2011, it received the same designation for the entire continent of Europe.
Interesting miscellaneous facts about Gruyere cheese
A food with such a long and storied history must have some interesting facts about it, and Gruyere does not disappoint in that area. Here are a few interesting Gruyere tidbits to chew on:
The hole controversy
There is some international controversy regarding the presence of holes in Gruyere cheese. According to French agricultural law, French-style Gruyere cheese must have holes in it. However, in the Swiss varieties of Gruyere, no holes are present.
A cheesy faux pas
An old legend states that way back in AD 161 Emperor Antonin the Pious actually died of indigestion after eating too much Gruyere cheese. At least he went happy and satisfied!
Thankfully, today Gruyere does not carry with it so much controversy. All you have to do is enjoy it and Shisler’s Cheese House can bring the Gruyere experience to your taste buds with our own supply of the famed Gruyere Cheese. Stop in and pick some up today or order online here!
Summertime is all about easy entertaining and easier food: bountiful produce allows us to spend less time fussing in the kitchen and more time al fresco with friends. I’m all about quick recipes that produce big flavor, and these marinated mozzarella balls do just that. The best part? They get better the longer they sit, so make a triple batch and you’ll always be ready for unannounced guests that come your way.
Italians perfected the art of eating centuries ago, and one of many things they’ve mastered is the way to start a party. Antipasti — which means “before the meal” — are small bites meant to whet the appetite and prepare you for the upcoming feast. An antipasti platter can be composed of almost anything, but cured meats, cheeses, vegetables, and preserved pantry goods are the traditional place to start.
Antipasti, or any summer appetizer for that matter, can and should be as low maintenance as you desire. These “little mouthfuls” of mozzarella are marinated in a zesty bath of garlic, herbs, and olive oil. They are impressive enough to serve alone, but are right at home in a more expansive spread. Even better, they require minimal prep and can be adapted to whatever ingredients you already have on hand.
Don’t just keep this versatile recipe locked up at home. Transfer the tasty bites into cute jars to offer as hostess gifts, or pack them along on your next beach picnic. They’ll taste good anywhere you choose to eat them — even better with a bottle of chilled Rosé!
Garlic and Herb Marinated Mozzarella
1 pound (16 ounces) bocconcini or ciliegine, drained (See Recipe Notes)
Bocconcini (and ciliegine) are 1- to 2-inch balls of fresh mozzarella packed in water. They can be found in gourmet cheese section of well-stocked grocery stores. Feel free to substitute feta or goat cheese if desired