False friends: Munster cheese and Muenster cheese. what is the difference?
Munster cheese is an unpasteurized cow’s milk. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Muenster (note the different spelling) that you can buy in the U.S.A, as it has a different production process and tastes very different. Munster cheese comes from cows that munch grass in the Vosgian mountains in the East of France near the border with Germany. In the Middle Ages, the monasteries around the beautiful village of Munster in the Alsace region started producing this cheese, and everyone has been eating it ever since.
How is Munster cheese made?
Munster is washed a number of times with brine over the course of five weeks and kept in a damp cellar to encourage a certain kind of bacteria to grow that gives the cheese is strong taste, creamy consistency and very pungent odour. It often can be bought in round ceramic containers as otherwise it oozes everywhere and loses it’s shape quickly!
The danger of buying Munster cheese
The Alsace is a region close to my heart as I lived just across the border in Germany for a few years and used to visit the area regularly. On one of our visits, we went to the town of Munster and decided to buy some Gerwürztrauminer wine, baguette and a round of their cheese (how could you not?) for a picnic lunch in the forest. The formagère wrapped our chosen Munster in aluminium foil and then bagged it with three plastic bags, each one tied tightly at the top. We then put it in the trunk of the car and went off to visit the town, enjoying the thought that our picnic lunch was all ready and waiting for us.
A few hours later we wandered back to the car. A powerfully strong old sock smell blasted us as soon as we cracked open the doors and left us gasping for fresh air. We had to pull the cheese from the back of the car and leave all the doors open for a while before we could even attempt to get in. The cheese was hung off the side mirror of the car while we drove to our picnic spot so that we wouldn’t be subjected to the smell. It was worth it! The Munster was DELICIOUS! The photo of me below was taken when we went to visit the Alsace way back in 1997. The architecture of the houses in the photo is very typical for all over the region (and also for the neighbouring part of Germany). I think that the bag I’m holding in the photo actually contains the infamous cheese. You have to excuse the quality of the photos of the Alsace area on this post. They were taken before digital cameras existed. I took a photo of the photos so that I could show you what it looks like there. I hope to go back to revisit the area one day (and take better photos).
By Lisa Watson