Limburger is a washed rind cheese that has been the butt end of jokes, a novel tool for pranksters, and parents’ way to clear the kids out of the house. The aroma of Limburger has had a role in boys’ popular culture with the question, “Who cut the cheese?”
Silver-haired pranksters have often confessed (with wry smiles) about placing Limburger in a newlywed’s car, or worse, on the exhaust manifold.
Personally, I suspect that parents who enjoyed a traditional pairing of Limburger cheese with rye bread, a slice of onion, and lager beer choose the cheese for another reason. Solitude. Aromas like that, can and did clear a room, and in some cases, a house.
As the saying goes, “There’s no accounting for taste” but there may be an explanation. Washed rind cheeses can honestly smell like feet. And that is with good reason – these cheeses contain some of the same bacterial yeasts that are on your body.
B-Linens (Brevibacterium linens) are the aromatic component that’s doing the work for many washed rind cheeses. These hardworking bacterium favor cheeses with low acidity and can be coaxed to join them by washing. These same bacteria are responsible for generating the cheese’s strong aromas.
Newly formed cheeses are washed, usually with saltwater brine solution, but other liquids, such as beer or apple brandy, may be used. Not hosed or sprayed on, but literally massaged on the cheese with just enough liquid to moisten the surface of the cheese.
This gentle massage introduction creates a nurturing habitat for b-linens to grow and multiply, spreading their pronounced aromas across the surface of the cheese. In appearance, they start off white in color but react to light to become a distinctive orange/ reddish rind.
For those who are afraid of the aromas of washed rind cheeses, give them a chance. There are many washed-rind options that will fill, rather than clear a room.
If you are a fan of aromatic cheeses try some of these washed rind cheeses:
Grayson – A Virginia Rockstar – modeled after the classic Italian Tallegio that’s sticky, salty, and a mouthful of funky goodness.
Alsatian Muenster – Gooey sticky mess that is nothing like American Muenster. Spread on a baguette.
Raspberry Bellavitano – Washed with Wisconsin’s New Glarius Raspberry Lambic beer – sweet/sour and addictive.