Limburger Cheese: It Stinks So Good

While we tour the country, we’re all about trying regional specialty foods. Really, the way we see it, food is such an integral part of culture that no true exposure to the culture of a region is complete without drinking the Kool-Aid…or rather, eating the food.

So with that in mind, we set out to get us some Limburger cheese. Technically, this isn’t a Wisconsin specialty. But since Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, WI is the only place in the US that makes the stinky stuff, we decided that was good enough to call it “regional”.

What Is Limburger Cheese And Why Does It Smell Like Feet?

According to Wikipedia, Limburger cheese originated in the Duchy of Limburg way back in the 19th century. (For your history lesson, the Duchy of Limburg now makes up parts of Germany, Belgium, and The Netherlands.) It’s a semi-soft to soft cheese, depending on its age, that’s typically made from cow’s milk.

So why does this stuff smell like feet? It all comes down to the method used to make the cheese. Limburger is a “smear-ripened” cheese, which means a smear of bacteria is spread on the rind of the cheese to ensure the proper growth of bacteria and prevent undesirable mold growth. For Limburger, the bacteria is Brevibacterium linens, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor and particularly foot odor.

Oh yeah…the older the cheese gets, the stinkier it gets too. Just like the longer your gym socks go without a washing, the riper they get.

Where Can I Get Limburger Cheese?

Well, if after reading the description, you’re still intrigued, or if you’re like Scott and actually like this cheese that will make your refrigerator smell a lot like your hamper, there are some places you can still get Limburger. If you’re in Wisconsin, you can take a side trip to Monroe to visit the Chalet Cheese Cooperative and get it factory direct. It’s super cheap on site. We paid about $2.50 for a half-pound of Limburger (compared to $7-8 online for about 3/8 of a pound).

If you’re in Ontario, Canada, you can swing by the Oak Grove Cheese Company’s retail store and pick it up. Outside of those two companies though, most Limburger is made in Germany.

So if you’re not in those areas, Limburger is distributed under numerous brands, though not widely. You’ll likely have to seek out a store that carries a wide variety of specialty cheeses or order it online.

Ewwwww…That’s Gross!

Our family is most certainly divided on the question of Limburger. Scott really likes strong cheeses, which Limburger most certainly is. Edie, on the other hand, wasn’t such a fan. Tipping the scales in favor of “Oh yeah!” though, is Knox. He always wanted a slice when it came out. That makes it a 160K Approved Cheese!

Here’s a funny quote from the Wikipedia article:

In 2006, 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 the area of biology.


How Do I Eat Limburger?

So once you try Limburger and decide you like it, you might find yourself wondering, “Just what do I do with this cheese now?” While you could probably mix it into eggs or macaroni and cheese or any other recipe where you’d use cheese, the traditional way of eating Limburger is on a Limburger Sandwich.

You can actually find these in some bars and taverns around Monroe, WI and the surrounding areas. A Limburger Sandwich is a simple sandwich of a thick, heavy-duty rye bread topped with a healthy serving of cheese, thick slices of raw sweet onion, and a brown mustard. It has a lot of flavor owing to the cheese, sharp mustard, and raw onion, but if you like Limburger, you’ll like this sandwich.

Your turn…have you ever had Limburger cheese? Do you like it?