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Apr 23, 2007 06:36 PM

What does "real" Munster cheese look/taste like?

I've only been exposed to shrink-wrapped, beige-ish with a reddish outside, square slices of very mildly-flavored Munster cheese. Is there another, more authentic, actually flavorful kind that I'm not aware of? Not dissimilar to the relationship between Precious brand mozzarella vs. Mozzarella di Bufala?

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  1. I never get my munster in slices. I purchase the wedges from the cheese counters at most stores... white with reddish/orange rind. It is stronger tasting than mozzarella and much stringier when melted. I love to use it in grilled cheese sandwiches, baked ziti, mac & cheese, pizza, anywhere you would use mozzarella (non fresh) versions...

    1. "Real" munster, at least the Munster I've had in Germany, does not have the orange food coloring on the outside, does not have the same creamy texture, and does not have the same sweetened taste. It's more akin to an Edam or Gouda. I don't think I've ever seen any in the USA.

      Not that I don't like US "munster". It's great on sandwiches.

      1. Perhaps this is not what you're after, but "real" munster is, firstly, not from Germany, but from the Alsace region of France and secondly, quite different than what I imagine all of you have been describing (which I assume is the American Muenster or the so-called German Munster, which is nothing like its French namesake).

        AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) Munster is a soft, washed-rind cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk. The rind of a ripe Munster should be something like reddish-straw colored, not beige, which suggests that the cheese is past its prime. You actually ought to be quite careful of Munster in this state. AOC Munster, quite unlike what you've been eating, is very strong, full of that washed-rind smelly-sockness. Once this cheese peaks, the paste will become oozy and its plesant, assertive flavor will come to resemble horse manure.

        The non-AOC Munster and American Muenster, while potentially quite nice, are never going to present you with an "authentic, actually flavorful" experience.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Michael Juhasz

          thanks for this; my husband and I had "real" Munster in Montreal as part of a cheese course, and when I came back to the US had trouble making anyone understand what on earth I was talking about. What we had was wonderful "stinky" cheese that I've never been able to find again.

          1. re: Michael Juhasz

            Michael Juhasz has said it all quite well!
            I would suggest, operagirl, if you want a more intense munster-esque experience, find a ripe Port Salut- it looks JUST like munster, but is distinctly softer than many American rubbery munsters- as it ripens, it gets a mild grassy stinky savory-ness and buttery with a mild tang. The real AOC stuff isn't too expensive.

            1. re: Michael Juhasz

              Oh yeah, the part of France where everyone speaks German?

              1. re: SuperWittySmitty

                Everyone speaks French in Alsace, SWSmitty. with a Germanish dialect.

            2. Yes, Alsatian Munster, and that sandwich cheese are completely different creatures.

              American stuff is a processed, homogenized, rectangular log with some orange food coloring on the outside that's oozed out of a machine and molded.

              Alsatian munster comes in a 1 lb disk, and is a washed rind cheese, as M. Juhasz has indicated. The way they are made is completely different. Think of the Alsatian stuff as a brie on steroids. It's essentially the right shape, but the rind is bathed in brine and the bacterium Brevibacterium linens as it ages, which gives it that dank sock aroma. It should be soft and gooey on the inside, with a slightly sweet and pungent taste.

              There are also mini-wheels, but I find that they dry out too fast for them to properly age. Same with the mini Pont L'eveques.

              1. Thanks to everyone for your responses! I especially appreciate the recommendations of similar cheeses -- if I can't find Alsatian Munster cheese, at least Port Salut will provide a reasonable facsimile.

                12 Replies
                1. re: operagirl

                  I'd say that Port Salut is similar to the American style Muenster in taste and texture, not anything like the Alsatian.

                  The French Munster Gerome is available in the US, but it's pasteurized. Similar to French Munster would be other washed rind cheeses, like Taleggio from Italy, or Pont L'eveque from France.

                  1. re: cheesemonger

                    agree with the 'monger, Taleggio is somewhat similar. So is Livarot, but the flavor is a bit stronger and smokier due to the type bacteria used to wash the rind. Pont L'Eveque is indeed similar in flavor to the munster, though it is not a washed rind cheese, but a blooming rind cheese like brie or camembert.

                    1. re: rotie77

                      Pont L'Eveque is indeed a washed rind cheese, per AOC Regulation.

                      1. re: cheesemonger

                        So, there are no US artisan cheesemakers making munster?

                        1. re: rworange

                          There are US artisan cheesemakers that make washed-rind cheeses, but technically, Muenster comes from Alsace, period.

                          There's a little cheese called ColoRouge from Colorado that's like a little Muenster wheel, and pikawicca mentioned Capriole Farms, there's also Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, etc.

                          1. re: cheesemonger

                            OK, so I bought some organic Jean Roussey Munster-Gerome from Alsace with an AOC designation ... whew.

                            It looked like this.


                            Yeah, forget the comparison to port salut ... not even close. Now I'm sorry I didn't pay attention to the cheese shop that offered me an American cheese that was quite similar ... Eating this now, that was smilar but not as intense.

                            Anyway in texture is is similar to a triple creme brie that's been left out for a few hours, soft and oozy. That is the only similarity. This really is a strong cheese with a lot of barnyard flavor ... that had some hint of taste that brought Limburger to mind ... I could see how an over-ripe version could turn into a manure flavor. What is kind of cool is the salty almost crisp-ish rind.

                            The FDA requires munster to be aged 60 days before being imported to the US, so it is on the mature side.

                            Just for comparison, I bought McCadam Muenster made in NY state.

                            That seems to be the American version in better cheese shops. The orange exterior is paprika. The cheese shop compared it to jack cheese and also mentioned it is good in Mexican dishes.

                            Then I found this blog which has a link to Muenster, Mexico and the German population there so it seems likely that American Muenster would work with Mexican dishes.

                            On this blog you have to scroll waaaay to the botton and the guy is into some political rants between food writing about stuff like Pear Frangipane tart and pot au feu. So ignore the politics and cut to the cheese because it is some excellent info. It is where that picture at the top originated.

                            He writes ...

                            "The cows are a race particular to the Vosges and eat the herbs and grasses in the region which give character to the cheese"

                            He notes as do other sites that the cheese is named after the town of Munster, the original Latin name being Monestarium for the monestary. It was first made by Benedictine monks in the middle ages.

                            One way to use the cheese is to top just-boiled potatoes with it.

                            An interesting article about how one company makes its munster ..

                            They don't pastuerize the milk used so not to destroy the floral quality from the plants the Vosgienne cows munch on. These cows were imported from Scandinavia during the 18th century.

                            They write ...

                            "Farm Munsters are first matured for a week outdoors before being transferred into caves, They then sit on rye straw next to older Munsters from which they acquire the rind flora"

                            They suggest pairing with beer, red wine or Gewurztraminer. Other sites suggest pairing with wines of the Alsace region to intensify the similar floral qualities of wine and cheese.

                            The cheese shop didn't have German Munster at this time. The reference to munster tasting like port salut might depend on the country of origin and and age of the cheese. This site writes ...

                            "Münster has a wide range of taste, depending on the age; the more aged the cheese is, the stronger it is. Generally, it is smooth and mild, with a slight hint of salt and butter. Depending on the country it's made in, however, there are considerable differences. German Münster has a strong odor and is usually served as a table cheese with hors d'oeuvre. French Münster has a sharp flavor and creamy consistency. It is first odorless, but develops a pungent smell over the course of a month"

                            This link which mentions the variations of munster ... Chaumes, Gerome, Lingot d'Or, and Marcillat from France, German münster cheeses ... has a picture of a slice where the interior color was very similar to the version I tried.

                            Thanks for asking the question. Who knew munster could be interesting.

                            1. re: cheesemonger

                              The cheesemonger is right, you will never find an american making a cheese called Munster, as the name is AOC protected (kind of like you'll never find an american producer of Parmiggiano Reggiano). There are similar cheeses. The ones above and my personal favorites: Cato Corner's Hooligan or Greyson by Meadow Creek Dairy. The latter is more like a Tallegio, but still nice if you want to get your stink on.

                              1. re: inovercy

                                Thanks for the info -- I didn't know that we had a home-grown cheese similar to Tallegio. I will definitely try to find some.

                    2. re: operagirl

                      Port Salut bears no resemblance whatsoever to Alsatian Muenster! I can usually find the real stuff at my favorite cheese store in Indianapolis, so if you're in a big city, you should be able to find it. A similar French "stinky" cheese is Chaume, which is slightly easier to find. Try Also, Capriole Farm in southern Indiana sells a wonderful stinky-when-ripe goat cheese called Mont St. Francis. I don't know if they do internet shipping or not, but you could check. Good luck in your quest!

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Alright then, I guess lunchbox's recommendation wasn't what I was looking for then. Thank you for your suggestions!

                          1. re: operagirl

                            I'm sorry, all you cheese folks... I never meant to say Port Salut is a cheap alternative to Alsatian Meunster- merely that it was a better version of semi-soft orange checkered cheese that looks like bricks at the deli... you are all so, so right!