Limburger (in southern Dutch contexts Rommedoe, and in Belgium Herve cheese) is a cheese that originated in the Herve area of the historical Duchy of Limburg, which had its capital in Limbourg-sur-Vesdre, now in the French-speaking Belgian province of Liège. The cheese is especially known for its strong smell caused by the bacterium Brevibacterium linens.
|Country of origin||The Low Countries and Germany|
|Source of milk||Cow|
|Aging time||2–3 months|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
|Other names||Fromage de Herve|
|Country of origin||Belgium|
|Region||Pays de Herve|
|Source of milk||Cow|
|Weight||50, 100, 200, or 400g|
|Aging time||3 weeks to 2 months|
|Related media on Wikimedia Commons|
Herve has been produced since the 15th century.
History and geographic originsEdit
The Herve name has become the modern European protected name for the cheese, while the Limburger name is used for the same style when made in other regions. Herve cheese, or "Fromage de Herve", is still produced in the territory of the old Duchy of Limburg, in Belgium, where it has been produced since the 15th century. Herve is located near Liège, and the borders separating Belgium from the Netherlands and Germany. The "Land of Herve" is a hilly area between the Vesdre and Meuse rivers. The Duchy existed until the French Revolution as a part of the Holy Roman Empire, and the cheese style became popular in other areas, known by the name of its country of origin.
In the US, it was first produced by the F.X. Baumert cheese factory in Antwerp, New York, in 1854. It was also produced in 1867 by Rudolph Benkerts in his cellar from pasteurized goat's milk. A few years later, 25 factories produced this cheese. The Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wisconsin is the only American company that makes this cheese. It is also manufactured in Canada, where it is a German-Canadian cultural marker, by the Oak Grove Cheese Company in New Hamburg, Ontario.
It is sometimes flavored with herbs. Herve has a pale yellow interior with a glossy reddish-brown coating created by the bacteria that grow during its 3-month aging. It is usually shaped into a brick when sold. The taste and flavor of the cheese deepens during the period of ripening. When young, the interior is sweet, and with age it becomes spicy.
In its first month, the cheese is firmer and more crumbly, similar to the texture of feta cheese. After about six weeks, the cheese becomes softer along the edges but is still firm on the inside and can be described as salty and chalky. After two months of its life, it is mostly creamy and much smoother. Once it reaches three months, the cheese produces its notorious smell because of the bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese and many other smear-ripened cheeses. This is Brevibacterium linens, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor and particularly foot odor.
It is often regarded as one of the most popular cheeses in Belgium.
One of the most traditional ways of eating limburger is the limburger sandwich. After three months, when the cheese has ripened, it becomes spreadable. The cheese is often spread thick (more than 0.5 cm or 0.2 inch) on firm-textured 100% rye bread, with a large, thick slice of onion, and is typically served with strong black coffee or lager beer. Alternatively, chunks or slices of the cheese up to 1.5 cm (0.6 inch) thick can be cut off the block and placed in the sandwich.
This sandwich remains very popular among the descendants of Swiss and German immigrants in the Midwestern United States, in places like Wisconsin and Ohio. In the early 20th century, Limburger sandwiches became a popular lunch for working people due to their affordability and nutritious qualities. They were frequently accompanied with a glass of beer.
However, it is markedly less popular among the descendants born after about 1960, mainly because of the permeating smell and the inconvenience of going to specialty cheese and sausage shops to obtain it.
In Wisconsin, the Limburger sandwich can be found on menus at certain restaurants, accompanied by brown mustard. Several variations exist, such as those that add bologna, lettuce, tomato, roasted walnuts, and use white or French bread. Sometimes the rind of the cheese is rinsed or removed to reduce the amount of odor from the cheese.
In popular cultureEdit
Limburger and its characteristic odor are a frequent butt of jokes. Reactions to, and misinterpretations of, the smell of Limburger cheese were gags used in numerous Looney Tunes, Little Rascals and Three Stooges comedy shorts as well as in the 1942 Abbott and Costello movie, "Who Done It?". Also, the arch-enemy of the Biker Mice from Mars has the name Lawrence Limburger, complete with terrible body odor.
The smell of the cheese is referenced in the 1979 single by The B-52's, Dance This Mess Around, with the lyric "why don't you dance with me? I'm not no Limburger" suggesting that the singer feels she is unable to get a dancing partner due to perceived body odour.
A study showing that the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger and to the smell of human feet earned the Ig Nobel Prize in 2006 in the area of biology. The results of the study were published in the medical journal The Lancet on 9 November 1996. As a direct result of these findings, traps baited with this cheese have been placed in strategic locations in some parts of Africa to combat the epidemic of malaria.
100 g of Limburger contains:
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- Knols BG (November 1996). "On human odour, malaria mosquitoes, and Limburger". Lancet. 348 (9037): 1322. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)65812-6. PMID 8909415. S2CID 12571262.
- Knols, Brad; De Jong, Ruurd (April 1996). "Limburger cheese as an attractant for the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae s.s.". Parasitology Today. 12 (4): 159–161. doi:10.1016/0169-4758(96)10002-8. PMID 15275226.
- "Nutrition Facts and Information for Cheese, limburger". Nutritiondata.self.com. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
- Media related to Limburger cheese at Wikimedia Commons
- TED-talk about "Cheese, dogs and a pill to kill mosquitoes and end malaria" at TEDxMaastricht,·Apr 2012