31 August, 2010

Liederkranz Cheese.

About a week ago, blog reader Alan mentioned in a comment that Liederkranz cheese had been rescued from the brink of extinction by DCI Cheese Company.  I decided I would try to find some - the only thing I knew about it was that it was an American variation of Limburger, and that the last batch had been made by the Fisher Cheese Company in 1985.  Because of a bacterial contamination of the cheese culture that year, Fisher recalled all of that year's Liederkranz production, later selling the factory and remaining cultures to Beatrice Foods (which was later purchased by ConAgra.)

I was surprised to hear that the cheese was back in production, because for at least ten years, the Liederkranz culture was thought to have been allowed to go extinct.  I was pleased and surprised to find small 6-ounce squares of Liederkranz for sale in my local ShopRite supermarket. I picked one up and gave it a sniff. I was half expecting to get knocked out of my shoes, having grown up watching cartoons where "Limburger cheese" was shorthand for "horrible stench."

Sealed inside the package, the distinctive aroma of the cheese is heavily muted, and while I admit that the smell was somewhat flatulent, through the wrapper it wasn't overwhelming or strongly unpleasant.  So I bought it.

That night, I sat at the dining room table and carefully unwrapped it.  Everyone in the house knew as soon as that stinking bastard cheese saw the light of day.  Lynnafred gagged, "Damn it, Dad, this time your food shenanigans have gone too far."  "Pungent" isn't the word for it.  Truly, it smelled like someone squatted over the table and took a steaming dump.  Yet, for all the stench, it was an unremarkable-looking chunk of cheese.  Pale yellow inside with an orangey-tan rind.  But damn is that stuff nasty-smelling. And it didn't get better as the cheese stood out in the air, either.  All it did was attract the dogs.

Seriously.  Within seconds of having the cheese unwrapped, Iris and Zim were by my side looking for a handout.  This should come as no surprise since they are dogs, an animal which actively seeks out the most unpleasant and disgusting things it can find, in order to roll around in them.  I cut off a small piece of the cheese for each of the critters and they joyfully nosed the samples for a minute before gobbling them up.  

Since the sample didn't kill either of the dogs, I cut off another slice, this one for me.  Liederkranz is a semi-soft cheese, and it likes to stick to the knife; it would probably be best cut with a wire rather than a blade.  Ignoring the smell, I popped the slice in my mouth.  It's creamy and surprisingly mild, with a taste profile remarkably similar to an ordinary American cheese.  As everyone knows, though, the senses of smell and taste are intimately entwined, and unfortunately there was no way to prevent the smell of shit from wafting up the back of my mouth into my nose.  So fr, this was not the most pleasant of experiences.

Finally, I tried the cheese in the time-honored traditional way, on a hearty rye bread with sliced onion.  Unfortunately, the onion did nothing to kill the odor, which I still found to be just too overwhelming.  Maybe I should serve it with a spritz of Febreze.

I still have something like 99% of the cheese in the fridge, safely sealed within a plastic deli container so it doesn't make my fridge smell like an outhouse.  I'll probably try it a couple more times at least, to see if there is something - anything - about this scheißkäse I can learn to like.

If you, like Alan, dearly miss your beloved Liederkranz, you have reason to rejoice - it's back and pungent as ever.  As for me, I'll just wish you well and hope you can find a chunk during this initial  rollout period - supplies and distribution of the cheese seem to be somewhat limited right now.


Alan said...

Well written and entertaining article, as always. Made me laugh several times. I di-stink-tly recall that odor and we had many laughs over it, when the original cheese was available. It's amazing how something that smells so bad doesn't have a bad taste. Of course, it should be allowed to rise to room temp before it reaches perfection. It's just a question of who's room does it perfect itself in. lol

Alan said...

Oh, and I prefer to think that it smells like rotten socks on a humid August day.

MrsBug said...

It's so funny you mention this because my girlfriend and I just tried Limburger while we were on our recent "girls trip."

The lady at the cheese shop gave us the best advice: cut off the rind. She said because it is a washed rind cheese, it's actually the rind that reeks. We did that and both loved the cheese that was left: like a more fully-flavored brie.

Try cutting off the rind and see if that helps.

Dave said...

Alan - I knew it was going to be stinky, but yikes.

I was once warned that Epoisses cheese was pretty bad, but I have never found it to be that pungent. I guess my experience with that led me to believe Liederkranz would be similar. I was mistaken. :)

MrsBug - I'll give that a try, thanks!

TomW said...

I found that disgustingly funny. The time-lapsed comparisons were nothing I would ever pen, but the whole post had me cackling.

I saw the same cartoons as a kid and now have no plans to verify your aromatic description.

I'm glad you accredited the cartoons so I did not have to.


dale said...

The Durian of cheeses?

Anonymous said...

Just posted a link to your blog on our own: www.thecheesepost.com. Thanks for braving the aroma to give Liederkranz a try. We got a kick out of your write-up!

Unknown said...

Dave- yes, do cut off the rind. The bacteria in the surface wash do all of the work. They'll use the new cheese as food and their by products are what smells- along with the enzymes that they produce. The enzymes break down the fat and protein into specific flavor compounds- which in this case also smell.
Loved your post (as always) and Iris is indeed a beauty!

Dave said...

DCI - Thanks for taking my post in the lighthearted spirit in which it was intended. You guys are aces.

cheezmaker - I did cut off the rind, and it did make a difference. I've got a follow-up post coming on September 2 in which I relate some further adventures.

Unknown said...

>Yet, for all the stench, it was an unremarkable-looking chunk of cheese.
truly, sir, you have the heart of an adventurer.