Munster ( French pronunciation [ mœ̃stɛʁ ]) or Munster-Géromé is a French soft cheese from the High Vosges and traditionally especially from the Alsatian Münstertal (Vallée de Munster) , today part of the French region Grand Est . There the cheese is called Minschtrkas in the regional Alsatian dialect . In German it is sometimes called Munster Taking up or the French appellation, as Munster cheese called. In addition, there are the Muenster cheese produced in Germany and the American Muenster cheese , which were derived from the French Munster , as separate varieties .
Munster is a red smear cheese that is traditionally made from raw milk and now also from pasteurized milk from the Vosges cattle . It is one of the most famous regional specialties of Alsace and the most famous cheese of the Vosges. In the European Union it is listed as a food with a protected designation of origin (AOP) and may only be produced in this region as Munster or Munster-Géromé . Strictly speaking, however, the Géromé is a variant of Munster from the Lorraine side of the Vosges, which differs only slightly from Munster in its production.
Along with the Belgian Fromage de Herve , Limburger and Romadur, Munster is one of the best-known red smear soft cheeses and is described as a lightly salted cheese with a cylindrical shape. It is typically made in flat loaves with a diameter of 13 cm to 19 cm and a height of 24 mm to 80 mm. The weight is at least 450 g and a maximum of 1000 g. As Petit Munster loaves are 7 cm to 12 cm in diameter and 20 mm to 60 mm in height, respectively. Their weight is around 120 g.
The cheese has a fine layer of red smear on the washed, smooth and slightly damp rind. Due to the red smear, the bark is yellow, orange or red-orange, the characteristics of the bacterial layer can be different. It can be cracked and partially liquefied in cheese wheels from farm production. The cheese dough is smooth, creamy-soft to flowing and supple and has a light yellow to yellow color. With some producers, the cheese dough is colored with Annatto (Orlean dye), which makes it darker and more intense yellow to yellow-orange. It has no holes or only a few break holes in the dough. The cheese is characterized by its strong, strong and penetrating smell, which arises as it matures. Young Munster has a creamy and somewhat crumbly consistency, it tastes “fresh, nutty and full”. Matured Munster tastes "strong and full of character, intense and aromatic."
The fat content in the dry matter of Munster is at least 40% and on average 45% to 50%. The dry mass itself must be at least 40% of the cheese mass. The average salt content in cheese is 2.7%, the calcium content 0.22% (and thus corresponds to a relative calcium content of the fat and salt-free dry matter of 1.04%) and the phosphorus content 0.18%.
In addition to the unseasoned Munster, a Munster with caraway is also produced, which is marketed as Munster au cumin or Munster cumé.
Origin and spread
The Munster originally comes from the Fechttal in the area of Munster (German Munster ) from the Vallée de Munster in the Vosges in Alsace. The valley became known as Munster or Münstertal or Vallée de Munster after the founding of the monastery by the Irish and later Italian Benedictine monks who had lived there since 668 . According to tradition, farmers settled around the monastery who raised their cows on Les Chaumes , an unforested and grassy landscape in the area, in order to enable improved dairy farming and thus higher cheese production. In records around 850 there is reported regular upwelling of pastures in this part of the Vosges, where the main production sites for the cheese dairy were on the eastern slopes of the mountains at altitudes of around 1000 to 1425 meters. Traditionally, the dairy farmers broke (marcaires) for Urbanstag on May 25, to bring their cows to the high-lying pastures.
Traditional Munster cheese factory in Steige, Bas-Rhin
The upswing also brought the cheese to the Lorraine side of the Vosges, where farms and cheese dairies were also located. The town of Sancti Gerardi Mare was founded there in 1285 by Lorraine and Alsatians and was popularly called Gérardmer and was called Géromé in the dialect . Gérardmer quickly became a trading center for both the Alsatian Munster and the Lorraine Géromé. The name Géromé was added to the Munster , the name Munster-Géromé was recognized as the official name in 1969. Today the soft cheese with the washed rind east of the Vosges in Alsace is called Munster , while west of the ridge in Lorraine it is called Géromé .
The original production took place in peasant dairies , but was later increasingly taken over by larger cheese factories and dairies. The cheese from the farmer is therefore also called Munster fermier , while the cheese from the Munster dairy is called laitier . Industrial production in dairies only began at the turn of the 20th century. In 1968 around 4,000 tons of Munster were produced in dairies as Munster (laitier) and around 100 tons of Munster (fermier) in peasant herdsmen's huts.
As Munster-Géromé , Munster and Géromé received the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in 1978 . In 1998, Munster and Munster-Géromé, along with numerous other foods, were recognized as protected throughout Europe ( Appellation d'Origine Protégée ). This is to ensure that the product meets special quality requirements, and the specific manufacturing conditions are specified. Thus the cut may rupture forming be kneaded not washed before. The production categories of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée are Fermier , Coopératives and Industriel , so that the cheese can be produced according to all three production categories . For cheeses that do not ripen at the place of manufacture, both the place of manufacture and the place of ripening must be indicated on the label. Production is limited to the departments of Bas-Rhin , Haut-Rhin , Vosges , Meurthe-et-Moselle , Moselle , Haute-Saône and Territoire de Belfort . The milk can be pasteurized whole milk or raw milk from the Vosges cattle.
Munster is one of the most popular cheeses in France and is now the sixth largest cheese in the country. According to the Institut National de L'Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), around 6500 tons of Munster are produced each year (as of 2017), and the production volumes have decreased slightly in recent years from more than 6600 tons in 2014 to around 6300 tons in 2017 . Compared to the production figures from 2005 to 2007, each of over 8000 tons per year, the production volumes have decreased significantly. The largest producers include Fromages Ermitage and the Sodiaal group subsidiaries Fromagerie de Blamont and Compagnie des fromages et RicheMonts.
Muenster cheese and Muenster cheese
In addition to Munster-Géromé with proof of origin, Munster-type cheese or Munster cheese is produced internationally, especially in other parts of France, Germany and the United States. Especially in the United States, where the cheese is known as Muenster cheese and was introduced by German immigrants, the manufacturing process differs from that of the original Munster, and reheating , for example, is common. In Germany, the production of Munster cheese is already regulated by the cheese ordinance in the older version from 1951 and the current version from 2016, where it is described as the standard variety.
Munster and Munster-Géromé are either traditionally produced in small dairies and dairy huts as Munster fermier or in larger dairies as Munster laitier . These two manufacturing methods do not differ in the fundamentals. The cheese making in dairies, which is derived from peasant production, is geared towards significantly more efficient mass production.
The yield of cheese production is around 12 to 14 kilograms from 100 liters of milk.
The Munster fermier is traditionally once in the period from late May to early October on the day of a mixture of pre-ripened evening milk from the previous day with the morning milk Vosges beef produced. The Géromé , on the other hand, is scheduled twice a day. Raw milk is generally used in farm production . In dairies, on the other hand, cheese is usually made with pasteurized and pre-ripened milk, although the dairy itself does not differ significantly. The milk is partially adjusted to a fat content of about 3.4% fat by mixing it with semi-skimmed milk. The rennet, i.e. the addition of the rennet enzyme to precipitate the milk protein , takes place with milk that is slightly warmed or warm in the copper kettle. In the eastern Vosges, the temperature is usually between 26 and 30 ° C; in the western Vosges, 30 to 32 ° C are common. The mixture is then left to rest for about 60 to 120 minutes, or for about 30 minutes for the Géromé , so that the enzymes can work and thicken the milk. Then the cheese mass is cut crosswise with a saber or cheese harp until the curd is in nut-sized pieces. Finally, it is warped and immobilized again for 30 to 60 minutes so that the curd can separate from the whey .
Then the curd is scooped out with the help of casseroles and placed in the cheese molds. Sometimes caraway seeds are added to the curd when scooping out to make Munster au cumin . Traditionally, as cheese molds, perforated wooden molds, trotters, with a diameter of 15 to 18 centimeters and a height of 8 to 10 centimeters, a diameter of 20 to 22 centimeters and a height of 30 centimeters or a diameter of 36 to 40 centimeters and a height from 15 to 18 centimeters, which were partially covered with cloths. In the meantime these have been replaced by shapes made from tinned or enamelled sheet iron. After about 5 to 6 hours the loaves are turned for the first time and after a further 5 to 6 hours they are reshaped into new shapes or the molds are cleaned in order to remove any blockages in the perforation. Overall, the cheese wheels are turned four times on the first day and the remaining whey drains off during the first three to four days. The cheeses are stored at temperatures of 18 to 22 ° C, in winter in valley dairies also colder at 15 to 20 ° C. In Saulxures , on the fourth day, after the whey has drained, two to three loaves are placed on top of each other in a single mold for one day, so that the last remnants of the whey are driven out by light pressing.
After pressing, the loaves are first dry salted by hand, the aim being a table salt content of 3 to 3.5%; then the cheeses are left outside to dry for five to six days. Afterwards, the maturation takes place in the cellar at temperatures of 10 to 14 ° C on racks that were previously covered with rushes or rye straw and are now lined with wooden cheese boards. The Munster ripens for four to six weeks, the Munster Petite around two weeks and the Géromé two to five months, depending on size. As red smear or red culture cheese, the surface is washed, salted and lubricated regularly (about three times a week) with a mixture of water, red smear cultures and 2 to 3% table salt during the ripening process. As a result, the cheese is coated with a dark yellow to orange-colored greasy rind, which is caused by the bacteria.
The cheese is packaged in parchment or paraffin paper and in chipboard boxes.
In the industrial production of Munster laitier in dairies, in contrast to domestic production, no raw milk is used, but milk pasteurized by heating to 72 ° C. The fat content of the milk is set at 3.15%, the acidity is about 6.5 ° SH and 15.5 ° D . The milk is partially colored with Orlean dye before it is adjusted to pre-ripening with 0.15% starter cultures ( acid alarm ). Pre-ripening takes about 18 to 20 hours and takes place in large milk storage tanks with a volume of up to 30,000 liters. Then further starter cultures are added to the milk and it is transferred to cheese vats. Rennet is added to the milk, about 22 to 32 milliliters of rennet for a rennet strength of 1: 10,000 being added to 100 liters of milk.
The total time for the enzymes to take effect is around two hours. The resulting cheese curd is quickly cut into cubes with an edge length of 1.5 to 3 centimeters with the help of curd cutters, then the curds are settled and the curds and whey are separated ( syneresis ) within 3 to 5 minutes. The whey is then skimmed off as quickly as possible and about 75 minutes after renneting the curd is scooped into the molds made of sheet iron, aluminum or plastic. Immediately after filling, the loaves are turned for the first time. This happens four times on the first day. The whey is discharged over a total of 21 to 24 hours, the salting is done dry by hand or by repeated salt baths within the first 36 hours until the desired salt content of 2% is reached. Drying takes place over 24 hours at 18 ° C and 70-75% relative humidity, after which the cheeses are set for four to five weeks at 11-16 ° C and 90-95% relative humidity for maturation. During the ripening period, the loaves are washed, lubricated and turned every other day.
The cheese is packaged in cellophane , which is laminated on parchment paper . The packaged cheeses are then placed in chipboard or cardboard boxes. The boxes are stacked in transport steps and transported at temperatures of 3–4 ° C.
Starter cultures and microbiology
During the ripening process, the cheese wheels are washed with a saline solution about every two days and then lubricated with a red smear , which promotes the ripening and the development of the cheese's characteristic taste and smell. The smear consists mainly of cultures of the bacterium Brevibacterium linens, the most typical red smear bacterium , but also contains various other types of bacteria such as Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus plantarum . In addition, numerous other bacteria and fungi colonize the ripening cheese and thus form a typical ripening flora. Above all, yeasts can be regularly detected on the surface of ripening red smear cheeses and at the beginning they dominate them due to their tolerance to salts and acids, while the lubrication gradually increases the proportion of red smear bacteria and other bacteria that dominate them at the end of ripening . The red smear flora is also responsible for the reddish color of the bark, which is caused by the formation of carotenoids and other pigments by the bacteria and yeasts of the bark colonization.
During the ripening process, proteins and lipids as well as other ingredients of the milk and the later cheese are broken down. Typical degradation products are created for the bacteria and fungi involved, which accumulate in the cheese and determine the characteristic aroma, smell and taste. Depending on the type of cheese, the composition of the resulting components can be very different.For example, in Munster and Camembert, the thiol ( ethyl 3-mercaptopropionate ), which is otherwise only found in wine, can be detected, which is probably a breakdown product of sulfur-containing amino acids .
In addition to the ripening bacteria, which are very important for cheese, undesired bacteria can also colonize, including above all the Listeria , especially Listeria monocytogenes , which are known to infest soft cheese . Listeria produce poisonous substances and have correspondingly poisoning effects on the human organism, whereby the symptoms can range from slight discomfort to severe gastrointestinal complaints to acute food poisoning , depending on the infestation . As a rule, colonization with Listeria is prevented by the cheese flora present on the cheese, i.e. by the red smear bacteria, but above all by strains of Enterococcus faecium and Lactobacillus plantarum , which are known to inhibit the colonization and spread of Listeria.
Various errors can occur in the manufacture of Munster that affect the quality of the cheese. Insufficient drainage of the whey, for example due to insufficient acidification of the curd or insufficient salting, can trigger excessive growth of oidia of the mushrooms and thus a greasy-greasy or liquefied rind. Insufficient humidity during ripening can cause dry and cracked bark. Too extensive ripening of the milk or over-acidification of the curd can lead to a chalky texture of the dough and impaired taste.
Consumption and preparations
Munster is usually eaten pure at room temperature or sprinkled with a little separately served caraway, with onions and fresh bread. According to recommendations, chilled cheese should not be eaten straight from the refrigerator and should only be brought to room temperature. For consumption, the red smear and, depending on the degree of ripeness, the rind of the cheese is removed. The sommelier Markus Del Monego explained in an interview: "an aromatic, powerful Munster or an intense Roquefort is (...) more of a high school for cheese connoisseurs."
The cheese is served alone or as part of a cheese buffet. In Alsace, it is also eaten as an accompaniment to fried or jacket potatoes , as baked cheese or on Alsatian tarte flambée (tarte flambée au munster) . As a rule, an Alsatian Gewürztraminer , a Pinot Gris or an Alsatian beer (Kronenbourg) is drunk with a Munster, a glass of kirsch can also be served with a young Munster . A riper and stronger Munster is consumed with a corresponding red wine, such as a Côte-Rôtie or a Haut-Médoc .
The Baedeker travel guide to Alsace and the Vosges also describes the cheese as the end of the typical regional milker's meal (Repas Marcaire) , which consists of a meat pie (Tourte de la vallée) as a starter and a Roïgabrageldi , a typical Alsatian potato cake with smoked pork shoulder. As a dessert, the Munster is served as Sieskäs made from Munster cream cheese with cream and kirsch as well as a blueberry cake.
In 2007 La grande Larousse Gastronomique published a recipe by the Alsatian top chef Jean-Georges Klein for a potato cappuccino with Munster. A Munster mousse is made from poultry broth , cream, peanut oil , gelatine and Munster and placed in a siphon . The mousse is foamed on a puree of warm jacket potatoes ( Monalisa ) with butter and milk and a layer of onion, sprinkled with caraway seeds and served warm.
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