Let’s bow to this very ancient representative of France’s cheese universe, it is to be considered a survivor of many wars and myriad plagues and revolutions. It was invented maybe in the 7th century already, when Benedictine monks founded an abbey to worship Saint George in the southern valleys of the Vosges mountain range. As usual, some villages appeared on the map around the abbey soon, amongst them one that gave its name to the cheese called
It took a while, until 1969, that it achieved its AOC, containing the rules of how to treat it during affinage: This is one of the orange-red guys getting their rind washed regularly, in the case of Munster every two days during at least 21 days. During that time, it develops an odour pretty peculiar, you might call it a typical, hearty aroma or just an odd smell somewhere in-between unwashed feet and a sweaty teenager’s t-shirt. I know, that sounds unfair but Munster really isn’t an olfactory delight.
Still, many people do like it. Over 8000 tons are produced per year, a considerable amount, around 100 farm producers are active and seven cooperatives and more industrial style fabricants. Situated in Alsace, close to Colmar and to the German border, they use full-fat cow’s milk and craft a disc-shaped cheese of different sizes. The biggest pieces weigh up to 1.5 kilograms, but nowadays you can also find mini-Munsters of 120 grams a piece.
It’s a demanding delicacy, not an easy snack, you somehow feel its monasteric, century-old roots. The French would probably say: ça rigole pas which means something like: this is serious stuff. And the habits of eating it are alike. I’ve read that the real Munster lovers don’t eat it with bread but with potatoes or they cook with it.
What would I drink with it? Frankly, I rarely eat it. Coming from Alsace, maybe a Gewurztraminer could keep up with it, I don’t know but I’m sure Alain can help us out. I could even imagine a beer to wash it away…
The following video was produced to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the AOC in 2009. Watch it and tell me: Do these people look like 2009 to you? Or more like medieval monks?