It’s a dilemma many families face. The grownups want a cheese with character, flavor, and “bar-none” quality… while the kids’ idea of excellence comes in plastic-wrapped slices of questionable origin. We have a solution: Next time family grilled cheese night rolls around, reach for a cheese that everyone will love for all the right reasons. It’s mild, mellow, melts like a champ, and is actually cheese. The kids will even love its name: Muenster.
Muenster Cheese History: Where Did It Come From?
For starters, Muenster is almost nothing like Munster (or Munster-géromé) cheese from France. It also has nothing to do with the Irish province of Munster or the German city of Münster, although Muenster would seem to be an Anglicized version of the German name. Here, then is a little Muenster cheese history:
The French Munster cheese comes from Alsace, that very German region of France that has changed hands between the two countries for centuries. (The German city of Münster is just across the Rhine in Westphalia, so maybe there’s more of a connection than is believed.) It is a washed-rind cheese on the order of Limburger, first made by Benedictine monks as a way to preserve milk. While Munster doesn’t have the overpowering smell of Limburger, it is a strong-tasting semi-soft cheese with a red-orange rind caused by the bacteria that give it its distinctive flavor.
French immigrants in the 19th century first figured out how to make Muenster cheese in Wisconsin. It’s likely that they were trying to imitate the French Munster, as the American version has the same semi-soft texture; however, its distinctive red-orange rind (if present) gets its color from annatto, the same natural vegetable dye that gives many Cheddars the familiar orange hue. And the Wisconsin version tastes nothing like the Alsatian original; because it does not go through the rind-washing and aging process, its flavor is very mellow with a pleasing tang, somewhat like a Monterey Jack. Because it truly has its own identity, Muenster may be considered one of the truly great original American cheeses.
Muenster Cheese Pronunciation
Muenster is pronounced either like “munster” (with a short u like bun) or “moonster” (with a short oo like book). Young children may think it’s cool to call it “monster”…and with its orange rind it’s a nice addition to a Halloween platter.
Muenster Cheese Uses
The smooth, mellow taste of Muenster is extremely versatile and adaptable to many dishes, so naturally, there’s no shortage of Muenster cheese recipes. Slice it for hot or cold sandwiches—it goes with any cold cuts—or cut it in cubes for a cheese tray.
Because it melts so wonderfully, with the perfect elasticity, Muenster is one of the finest additions to grilled cheese recipes. And those same characteristics—along with its food-friendly flavor that complements a wide variety of toppings—make it one of the best cheeses for cheeseburgers.
Muenster Cheese Pairings
Muenster pairs well with a variety of reds (pinot noir, Beaujolais, merlot, zinfandel) and dry to sweet whites (chardonnay, pinot gris/pinot grigio, riesling, grüner veltliner).
Belgian ales, brown and pale ales, lagers (including pilsners), and dark porters and stouts all go well with Muenster.
Apples, dried fruits, grapes, pears
How to make grilled cheese:
1. Heat 1 tablespoon salted butter in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.
2. Press the sandwich slightly and place it in the skillet. Cook until golden on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Flip, adding more butter to the pan if needed, and cook until the other side is golden and the cheese melts, 3 to 5 more minutes.
1. Classic Sandwich: 2 slices cheddar, Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese between 2 slices country white bread; cook, flipping once, until golden.
2. Bacon and Tomato: Make Classic Grilled Cheese (No. 1), adding 3 slices crisp bacon and 1 slice tomato between the cheese.
3. Triple Cheese: Make Classic Grilled Cheese (No. 1), using 1 slice each Cheddar, Muenster and Swiss cheese.
4. Spicy Nacho Sandwich: 2 slices white bread with 1 slice Monterey Jack or American cheese, some pickled jalapeno slices and 1 slice cheddar. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
5. Crunchy Nacho: Make Spicy Nacho Grilled Cheese (No. 4), adding 1 tablespoon crushed corn chips with the jalapenos.
6. Goat Cheese–Peppadew: Mix 1/2 cup cream cheese with 1/4 cup goat cheese and 8 chopped Peppadew peppers. Sandwich one-quarter of the mixture between 2 slices multigrain bread; cook, flipping once, until golden. (Use the remaining cheese mixture for more sandwiches.)
7. Grilled Cheese Fingers: Make Classic Grilled Cheese (No. 1). Cut off the crusts and cut the sandwich into strips.
8. Diner Sandwich: 2 slices American cheese between 2 slices white bread. Spread mayonnaise on the outside of the sandwich and cook, flipping once, until golden. Serve with ketchup.
9. Spicy Diner Mix: 1 tablespoon mayonnaise with 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha. Make Diner Grilled Cheese (No. 8), replacing the mayonnaise with the spicy mayonnaise mixture.
10. Cheddar and Pickles: Make Diner Grilled Cheese (No. 8), replacing the American cheese with aged white cheddar and adding sliced pickles between the cheese.
11. Havarti and Chicken Salad: Sandwich 2 slices potato bread with 1 slice Havarti, 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken salad and another slice of Havarti. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
12. Garlic Ham and Cheese: Prepare 2 thick slices frozen garlic bread as the label directs. Sandwich with 2 slices each Monterey Jack and ham. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
13. Pesto: Spread pesto on 1 slice white bread. Top with 1 slice each Provolone and Mozzarella. Top with another slice of bread and cook, flipping once, until golden.
14. Avocado: Toss 1/4 sliced avocado with lime juice and lime zest to taste. Sandwich 2 slices white bread with 2 slices pepper jack and the avocado. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
15. Potato Chip: Spread yellow mustard on 1 slice whole-wheat bread; top with 2 slices American cheese and 8 potato chips. Top with another slice of bread and cook, flipping once, until golden.
16. Swiss-Mushroom: Spread 2 slices rye bread with Thousand Island dressing. Sandwich with 1 slice Swiss cheese, some sautéed mushrooms and onions, and another slice of Swiss. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
17. Bagel Spread: a split bagel with mayonnaise and spicy mustard. Sandwich with 1 slice Muenster, 2 slices salami and another slice of muenster. Cook, flipping once, until golden, pressing to flatten.
18. Cajun Sandwich: 2 slices country white bread with 2 slices Provolone. Cook in butter with a pinch of Cajun seasoning.
19. Muffuletta: Make Cajun Grilled Cheese (No. 18), adding 1 tablespoon deli olive salad between the cheese.
20. Roasted Tomato: Toss 4 halved plum tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 350 degrees F, 1 hour; mash. Spread 2 slices sourdough bread with one-quarter of the tomato mixture and sandwich with 2 slices cheddar. Cook, flipping once, until golden. (Use the remaining tomato mixture for more sandwiches.)
21. Blue Cheese and Onion: Sandwich 2 slices marble rye bread with 1 slice each muenster and soft blue cheese, some caramelized onions and another slice of muenster. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
22. Italian: Sandwich 2 slices sourdough bread with 1 slice provolone, 1 slice mortadella, some chopped pickled vegetables and another slice of provolone. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
23. Fontina and Sage: Fry 4 sage leaves in a skillet in butter and olive oil until crisp. Sandwich 2 slices crusty bread with 2 slices fontina and the fried sage. Cook in the same skillet.
24. Mediterranean: Spread baba ghanoush on 2 slices whole-grain bread. Sandwich with 1 slice monterey jack, a few thin slices grilled zucchini, 2 tablespoons crumbled feta and another slice of monterey jack. Cook in olive oil.
25. Gruyere and Sauerkraut: Spread dijon mustard on 1 slice crusty bread. Top with 2 slices gruyere, 1 tablespoon sauerkraut and another slice of bread. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
26. Roast Beef and Brie: Spread 2 slices sourdough bread with dijon mustard and brie (remove the rind). Sandwich with some caramelized onions and 1 slice roast beef. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
27. Inside-Out Bun: Sandwich 1 slice each pepper jack and Swiss cheese on an inside-out seedless hamburger bun. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
28. Patty Melt: Cook a thin hamburger patty to medium doneness. Sandwich an inside-out seedless hamburger bun with 1 slice cheddar, the hamburger patty and 1 slice American cheese. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
29. Hot Dog: Halve a hot dog lengthwise; brown in a skillet. Spread a hot dog bun with ketchup and mustard, then sandwich with the hot dog and 1 slice American cheese. Cook, flipping once, until golden, pressing to flatten.
30. Meaty Macaroni: Spread 3 tablespoons warm macaroni and cheese on 2 slices potato bread. Drizzle with hot sauce and sandwich with ¼ cup warm pulled pork. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
31. Spanish Olive Sandwich: 1/4 cup grated manchego cheese and 1 tablespoon sliced green olives between 2 slices white bread. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
32. Fig and Olive: Make Spanish Olive Grilled Cheese (No. 31), spreading the bread with fig jam before building the sandwich.
33. Bacon-Waffle-Cheddar Sandwich: 2 thawed toaster waffles with 1 slice cheddar, 2 slices crisp bacon and another slice of cheddar. Cook, flipping once, until golden. Serve with maple syrup.
34. Egg in a Hole: Cut out a 2-inch round from the center of 1 slice country white bread; place the bread in a hot buttered skillet and crack an egg into the hole. Cook until the white sets, then flip and top with 1 slice cheddar. Meanwhile, add another slice of bread to the skillet and top with 1 slice cheddar and 3 slices crisp bacon. Sandwich the two halves and cook until golden.
35. Pear-Camembert: Spread 2 slices multigrain bread with camembert (remove the rind). Sandwich with thin pear slices. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
36. Ham–Apple Butter: Spread 1 slice country white bread with apple butter and another with dijon mustard. Sandwich with 1 slice Swiss cheese, 1 slice ham and another slice of Swiss. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
37. Hawaiian: Spread 2 slices Hawaiian sweet bread or challah bread with pineapple preserves. Sandwich with 2 slices each monterey jack and ham. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
38. Taleggio and Broccoli Rabe: Sandwich 2 slices crusty bread with 2 slices taleggio and some sautéed broccoli rabe. Cook in a mixture of butter and olive oil.
39. Ricotta-Garlic: Mix 1 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, 1 small grated garlic clove, and salt to taste. Sandwich 2 slices sourdough bread with one-quarter of the ricotta mixture and cook, flipping once, until golden. (Use the remaining ricotta mixture for more sandwiches.)
40. Fried Mozzarella: Whisk 1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk in a shallow dish. Mix 1/4 cup flour and 2 tablespoons grated parmesan in another dish. Sandwich 2 slices white bread with 2 slices fresh mozzarella. Dredge in the flour mixture, then dip in the beaten egg. Cook, flipping once, until golden.
41. Open-Face Cutouts: Cut shapes out of sliced white bread using a cookie cutter. Cut matching shapes out of sliced cheddar. Broil the bread until lightly toasted, then flip, top each with a piece of cheese and broil until the cheese melts.
42. Open-Face Caprese: Broil a split ciabatta roll until lightly toasted. Drizzle with olive oil and top each half with 2 slices tomato and 2 slices fresh mozzarella. Broil until the cheese melts. Top with chopped basil.
43. Pizza Spread: 2 slices Italian bread with marinara sauce and sandwich with 1 slice provolone, 2 slices pepperoni and 1 slice mozzarella. Cook in a mixture of butter and olive oil.
44. Open-Face French Onion: Broil baguette slices until toasted. Top with caramelized onions and shredded gruyère; broil until the cheese melts. Top with chives.
45. Open-Face Pastrami: Spread Russian dressing on 1 slice pumpernickel bread. Top with a few slices pastrami and 1 slice Swiss cheese. Broil until the cheese melts.
46. BBQ Roast Beef: Spread 1 slice country white bread with 1 tablespoon barbecue sauce. Top with 2 slices each cheddar and roast beef, then top with another slice of bread. Brush melted butter on the outside of the sandwich and cook on a grill, turning, until golden.
47. Truly Grilled Cheese: Toss 1 thick slice haloumi cheese with olive oil and chopped oregano. Rub 1 thick slice crusty bread with garlic and brush with olive oil. Cook the cheese and bread separately on a grill, turning, until marked. Rub the bread with a halved tomato and top with the cheese; sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.
48. Brie and Marmalade: Spread 2 slices cinnamon-raisin bread with orange marmalade. Sandwich with 2 slices brie (remove the rind) and cook, flipping once, until golden.
49. Creamy Quince: Spread 2 slices brioche with quince preserves; sandwich with 2 slices triple-cream cheese, such as Saint André, or brie (remove the rind). Cook, flipping once, until golden.
50. Nutella and Banana: Spread 1 slice challah bread or brioche with ricotta; spread another with Nutella. Sandwich with sliced bananas and cook, flipping once, until golden.