Soft and creamy with a shiny brick red rind. As with all the washed
rind cheeses, Munster has a strong, penetrating smell and develops
a tangy taste when fully mature.
Munster originates from
the upper Munster valley in the Vosges mountains of Alsace, France. Munster
is an ancient cheese. It has been in existence since the Middle Ages and
was originally made in monasteries. The name Munster comes from the town
of that name which is itself a contraction of the word 'monastery'. Benedictine
monks, Irish monks who settled in the Vosges in the 7th century, observing
their order's rule against meat, sought nourishment in milk and its derivatives.
Although it was first made for their own consumption, the monks later
taught the local peasants how to make Munster cheese. The local people
then used their cheeses to help pay rent to the monks whose land they
farmed. The success of the cheese led to it being produced over a wide
area and brought a little prosperity into a harsh and deprived region.
Our Munster comes from one
of only a few farms still producing the cheese. These are found along the
top of the Vosges and to the west of the small town of Munster. Milk from
the Vosgienne cow is used. The cows were originally imported from Scandinavia
during the 18th century. They graze in the valleys and the mountain pastures
called Chaumes, from which the popular Chaumes cheese is named. Most Munster
available today is made in factories using pasteurised cows' milk. Our
Munster, however, is the original farm produced version made with unpasteurised
cows' milk. Pasteurisation destroys the perfume of the flowers of the high
chaumes on which the cattle graze.
Maturation takes place at
a temperature of 12-14ºC. This takes 4 to 6 weeks for small thin cheeses
and 2 to 3 months for thicker larger cheeses. Farm Munsters are first matured
for a week outdoors before being transferred into caves, They then sit
on rye straw next to older Munsters from which they acquire the rind flora.
Every other day the cheeses are washed and brushed with brine and annatto.
The paste is soft and creamy and has a shiny brick red rind. As with all
the washed rind cheeses, Munster has a strong, penetrating smell develops
a tangy taste when fully mature.
Our cheeses are approximately
150mm in diameter, 30mm thick, 500g in weight and have a fat content of
45-50%. The best seasons are summer and autumn and the very best cheeses
are made with milk from the 'high stubble' of the Vosges.
The wine to accompany Munster
is the local Gewurztraminer or full-bodied and full- bouquet red wines
or even a beer - the region is close to the beer loving nation, Germany.
Munster is often eaten with baked potatoes and finely chopped onions. Munster
flavoured with caraway seeds is also to be found but purists believe it
should be enjoyed without.
A cheese called Géromé is
made on the other side of the Vosges mountains in Lorraine. Munster gained
its A.O.C. in 1969 and in 1978 the A.O.C. Munster- Géromé united these
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Above: A typical town of Alsace with
wooden framed buildings and an abundance of bright geraniums hanging from
every window sill.
Above: The regular washing of a Munster
cheese encourages its pungent development.