Cracking into the package is a sticky affair. Foil and parchment eventually give way to a wrinkly yellow-orange rind that is not so easy to slice without using a wire.
At the outset, a promise: I will not make a joke at the expense of the aroma of Limburger cheese. I have come to believe that it really does deserve better.
Limburger's persona is fraught with misunderstanding. Primary among those misunderstandings is its country of origin. Prior to the research for this column, I'm sure I would never have doubted that it was a German cheese, had I been asked. In truth, while much of the modern production occurs in Germany, the eponymous state of Limburg is actually in Belgium.
Even more surprising, perhaps, is the extent of Limburger's United States production. There is only one cheese manufacturer in the entire country that makes traditional Limburger. He just so happens to hang his shingle in Monroe, Wisconsin.
Myron Olson of Chalet Cheese Co-op is one of 43 master cheese makers in Wisconsin. His cheese-making career spans over 35 years, and has been recognized with numerous awards. One of the most recent accolades was a Best in Class for his Limburger at the 2007 United States Championship Cheese Contest.
Unlike the pasteurized Limburger spreads sold by the small jar in supermarkets, Chalet's Limburger is carefully crafted to be a true, Old World experience. The moneymaker in the production of Limburger is a little guy called Brevibacterium linens. While also partially responsible for human body odor (that's not a joke; I swear it's true), B. linens imparts not only Limburger's signature aroma, but also the yellowish color of the potent rind.Jaws clenched in determination, I made a trip to the wonderful , perhaps), and I could certainly win a dare or two.
The most surprising reaction I had to my encounter with Limburger, however, was the sense of honor I felt in having the opportunity to try it. Myron Olson and Chalet Cheese aren't making Limburger because everyone loves it. They're making it because they love it. To have such a singular passion is commendable, and to be able to have easy and local access to the product of that passion is truly awesome.