The Germans are mostly at fault for its continued existence – though there is, shockingly, one American producer (more on that later).
As maligned as Limburger is, the taste of this washed-rind, semi-soft cow’s milk cheese is rather mild, especially before it ripens (from about 3 months old on) and gains its signature aroma. The salt-water brine the cheese is washed with – to keep it moist and discourage mold – encourages the same bacteria (Brevibacterium linens) that lends itself to foot odor, and the scent develops from the rind in over six months or so.
For the mildest Limburger encounter, eat it soon after you buy it, straight from the fridge, and cut off the rind. It should be mild and crumbly, somewhat like feta. Two to three months into its life, the aroma starts to kick in, and it also gets creamier. Serve at room temperature if you wish to punch up the flavor. At 4 to 6 months old, you’ve got the real, smelly deal – and the cheese is almost runny.
Hardcore Limburger fans (yes, there are some, including Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel’s Bizzare Foods, reportedly) wait until after six months to enjoy the full experience. Even after the six months, the taste of Limburger cheese is not as pungent as can be found in many of the blue cheeses.
It’s not really a cheese for recipes or to be downed with a glass of wine. It was first made in the U.S. by Swiss immigrants in Wisconsin in 1867. The most famous use of it is in the Limburger sandwich, which was popular with German immigrants in the U.S. until the 1920s. Consisting of Limburger (thin slices, of course) served on rye bread with onion and mustard, it was almost always washed down with a mug of beer, usually of a darker variety. The sandwich quickly dropped out of favor when Prohibition hit, taking away the beer option. Apparently, the sandwich wasn’t considered appetizing with water.
Today, the Limburger sandwich can be found in online recipes or at Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern in Monroe, Wisconsin – where Chalet Cheese Cooperative, the one and only American producer of Limburger, is located.
While Limburger is the most famous stinky cheese, it is outclassed in stench by the French Epoisses or the British Stinking Bishop.