WHAT IS MUNSTER D’ALSACE?
This is not the Munster that you grew up with (unless as a child the whole cafeteria cleared out when you opened your sandwich). Authentic Munster is a French washed rind made from cow’s milk. Steve Jenkins, former Fairway retail legend, called this cheese “A triumph of cheese making, even when made from pasteurized milk.” A solution of rock salt and water is rubbed by hand which creates an ideal place for bacteria to grow. The result is the growth of a reddish-orange rind and eye-wateringly strong aroma.
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WHERE IS MUNSTER D’ALSACE MADE?
It is made in the Alsace region of France. This part of the country, Alsace-Lorraine, has switched between Germany and France on multiple occasions in the past. It’s German name is Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen. While that just rolls off the tongue (like sandpaper), either way this beautiful land only has one famous cheese. But they are VERY passionate about it. There are other munsters made in neighboring Franche-Comte and Lorraine, but they also have other cheeses of note as well.
NO, NO IT’S NOT THE CHEESE, IT’S ME. OR IS IT?
The pungent strength of this brine washed cheese can be confusing to people unfamiliar with cheese, both personally and professionally. So next time you go shopping, be careful that your pungent cheese is ripe and not spoiled. Even today some retailers with untrained staff don’t realize that “smelling bad” isn’t the same for a washed rind as for a spoiled cheese. If your Munster looks old, slimy and disgusting, this is nature’s way of telling you to move on.
WHAT CAN I PAIR WITH MUNSTER D’ALSACE?
Munster d’Alsace is a great cheese to pair with fruit or surprisingly with beer. While German white wines are a natural choice, be careful. Very mild wines won’t be very noticeable when paired with a strong Munster unless you serve the cheese without the rind. This isn’t a mild Livarot or an Epoisse, this is a washed rind cheese that set the bar for olfactory terror. A full bodied Gewurztraminer d’Alsace can work. If looking to pair on a cheese flight, think about who you’re serving. French Munster is a strong and exciting cheese, but not for people new to the beauty of fromage. Start newbies off with a more sedate German Munster and baby step them up to the French one. Maybe suggest they hold off on eating the rind (until a level of dairy comfort is established).