Over the Wisconsin border yesterday on a highly sensitive black op, I found myself with some time on my hands. It being Green County, home of the country’s largest concentration of cheesemakers, I decided to pay a visit to the Chalet Cheese Cooperative, the only Limburger plant in the nation. It wasn’t easy to find, being several miles down Highway N (closed to through traffic at the time) well outside of Monroe. By the time I arrived operations had shut down for the day so there was no telling whether its remote location was necessitated by some malodorous byproduct.
Luckily I managed to secure a brick of the company’s fine product at the Maple Leaf Cheese Outlet in nearby Juda. Limburger, according to Steven Jenkins’ excellent Cheese Primer, originated as a Belgian Trappist cow’s milk cheese, washed several times in a brine that gives it its powerful aroma. It’s marketed under the Country Castle brand and the label, stamped “Best if used by 7-24-07,” provided a handy temporal flavor guide. Four to six months back from that date is “Beginner Limburger.” Four to two and half months (where mine is) the cheese should be “soft to the center, slightly sweet and earthy” (so it is, and it made my fingers stink). Closer than that it becomes spreadable and strong “for the die-hard, true Limburger lover.” The classic limburger pairing is on dark bread, with slices of sweet onion, and beer.
Chalet, being the last of its kind, has achieved a sort of celebrity of anachronism. NYC’s Murray’s Cheese has a nice interview with master cheesemaker Myron Olson on their blog. And the Splendid Table has a quick one where he states that limburger’s demographic is an older one concentrated in the states between Wisconsin and New York–and also Florida–but that it’s making a comeback with the kids.