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There are two different styles of Muenster cheese, a European style and American style. Food historians do not agree where the cheese originates, though its roots are in Europe. Muenster is a soft cheese and is used in many recipes, such as cheeseburgers and grilled cheese. It has a range of flavors that are based on the type of milk used to make the cheese, and the how aged the cheese is when served.
Muenster cheese, made from cow's milk, has a white interior rimmed by a bright orange rind. The rind is edible but has a very salty taste. Young versions of this cheese, typically served in the U.S., are described as have smooth, soft textures with a very mild flavor. As the cheese ages, it develops pungent aromas and strong flavors often described as comparable to sharp jack cheese. Sometimes caraway or anise seeds are added for extra flavor and depth.
This is a soft cheese that tends to melt easily, a characteristic that makes it a popular choice for cooks. In particular, grilled cheese sandwiches can be made using muenster. It is also used often on cheeseburgers, in tuna melts and in quesadillas. When served on its own, the cheese is typically part of the appetizer course.
It also pairs with a range of wines due to mild flavors. Food and wine critics enjoy light red wines and fruity white wines with this cheese. Cooks should look for white burgundies, gewurztraminer and zinfandel wines if the cheese is served as part of a cheese platter or appetizer.
Muenster cheese is made in Europe and North America. One variety, French muenster, is made from unpasteurized milk. This is also known as the farmhouse version, and is often praised as the finest version of the cheese. Farmhouse Muenster has achieved French AOC status, a measure of quality.
Cheese made from pasteurized milk has a different taste, and is found in larger cheese manufacturing plants. Industrial versions of muenster cheese have very different flavors than the farmhouse version. These flavors are not as strong, producing a much milder cheese. The North American version of muenster cheese imitates European styles, though cheese connoisseurs often describe it as much blander than its French and German counterparts. In the U.S., the largest amount of muenster is typically produced in the state of Wisconsin.
Food historians believe that muenster originated in Germany or in France. It may have first been made in Alsace in an area that is currently called Munster. The region of Alsace has been part of both countries at different times, adding confusion to the argument over the origin of this cheese variety. Still other historians believe that this cheese originated in Ireland from a monastery.