Smile and say “Käse” – All About German Cheese
Germany has a long tradition of cheese-making and because of its varying landscapes, methods of production and regional traditions, it boasts more than 600 different types of cheese. While 75% of German cheese is produced in Bavaria, the areas of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt in the northern part of Germany also produce some of Germany’s more famous cheeses such as Wilstermarsch, Tilsit and Altenburger Ziegenkäse (goat cheese).
The heart of German cheese making is the Allgäu, in the Alpine region of Southern Germany, where Germany’s famous Allgäuer Emmentaler is made. Emmentaler is of course also known as Swiss cheese and the recipe was indeed imported from Switzerland. In 1821, Bavarian Elector Maximilian imported the skills of two Swiss master dairymen, who first introduced Emmentaler to the Allgäu.
Allgäu cheeses are made from the milk of soft brown Allgäu cattle grazing in the springtime meadows rich in alpine flowers. The milk is always high quality and plentiful, too, which explains why Bavaria has become Germany’s most important milk and cheese region, producing more than 400 different cheeses.
Germany produces all types of cheeses, including Hard Cheese (Hartkäse), Semi-Hard Cheese (Schnittkäse), Semi-Soft Cheese (Halbfester Schnittkäse), Soft Cheese (Weichkäse) and Fresh Cheese (Frischkäse).
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Allgäuer Emmentaler (Allgäuer Emmentaler )
Allgäuer Emmentaler is a classic hard cheese with a mild, nutty taste and distinctive round, cherry-sized holes. Only cheeses from the districts of Lindau, Oberallgäu, Unterallgäu, Ravensberg and Lake Constance, as well as the towns of Kaufbeuren, Kempten and Memmingen fall within the protected area of the PDO and can be labeled Allgäuer Emmentaler.
Altenburger Ziegenkäse (PDO) (Altenburger Ziegenkäse (PDO))
Ziegenkäse translates as goats cheese, but this traditional mid-19th century cheese is made with a combination of goats’ and cows’ milk. Because it has a PDO, it can only be made in just two eastern German dairies in Saxony and Thuringia, although during the time of the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany), very little of this type of cheese was produced there. Since reunification, this once rare cheese is now available all over the country.
Blue Brie (Weiß-Blau Brie / Blauschimmel Brie)
The Germans were the first who produced this cheese in the 1970’s. They produce these cheeses in varieties ranging from mild to strong, but it is the mild version that is most popular.
Blue Cheese (Edelpilzkäse)
Literally translated, Edelpilzkäse means “Noble Mold Cheese”. It is a blue cheese that is matured. It has a tendency to be crumbly rather than creamy, and has a distinctively sharp edge to its flavour. Edelpilzkäse is a genuine world class blue that is exported under a host of different brand names.
German bries are usually milder, smaller and taller than French bries and often have spices on the rind and inside the paste. They are also sometimes made with herbs, peppers, green peppercorns and nuts.
Butter Cheese (Butterkäse)
The name of this cheese comes from its buttery taste and color. Many producers have developed reduced fat and low calorie versions to suit modern dietary preferences, and these are sometimes referred to as “Damenkäse” or ladies cheeses. It is a mild cheese.
German Camembert is produced in many sizes, ranging from 80 to 400 grams, and a wide range of fat levels, from three-quarter fat (Dreiviertelfett) up to rich creamy double cream (Doppelrahmstufe).
Cottage Cheese (Körniger Frischkäse)
Also known as Hüttenkäse, it is the equivalent of cottage cheese. It is soft and moist with the curd particles clearly defined, and is available plain, or with fruit or savoury ingredients to suit all tastes.
Gouda (Gouda )
Germany has been making Gouda for almost 200 years and it remains one of the country’s most popular cheeses. It is made from full cream milk and has a mild and buttery taste when it’s young. If allowed to age, it becomes more piquant. It melts well, so it is often used for fondues, gratins and sauces.
Limburger (Limburger )
This cheese is originally from Belgium and was adopted by the cheese makers in the Allgäu in the 19th century. It is made of pasteurised cows´s milk and has 20 to 50 per cent fat in dry matter. Because of its strong smell, it’s often called “Stinkkäse ” or “Stinky Cheese” !
Mountain Cheese (Allgäuer Bergkäse)
This cheese is often called the “baby brother” of the Allgäuer Emmentaler and is sometimes also called Alpenkäse (Alp Cheese). Although it is made using similar production methods to the Emmentaler, one of the differences between the two cheeses is that Bergkäse is made in the mountains during the spring months and is brought down from the mountains after 4 weeks to ripen. Other differences between the two cheeses are that Bergkäse is ripened at a cooler temperature, has smaller holes than Emmentaler and is eaten young, at between three to four months.
Its tang and its very flat and smooth paste are distinctive for this cheese. The cheeses are round and come in a variety of sizes and fat contents.
Odenwälder Frühstückskäse (PDO) (Odenwälder Frühstückskäse (PDO))
This is a “breakfast cheese” (Frühstückskäse) from the South Hessian Oldwald region and is a real German specialty. Because it has been awarded a PDO, the cheese can only be made in the Hessian Oldwald region.
Quark is a very popular dairy product in Germany which is all but unavailable in North America (except for a few specialized dairies). It is made from curdled milk and has a texture similar to ricotta cheese but differs from its Italian counterpart in its nicely tart flavor. This popular dairy staple is available plain or in a variety of fruit and savory flavors. While the plain version is mostly used for cooking and baking and the savory varieties is used as bread topping or served with potatoes, the different fruit flavors (such as strawberry, peach, or exotic fruits) are very popular as healthy, filling snacks.
Quark literally translates as “curd” and is similar to the American Cottage Cheese. It is a curd cheese made from skimmed milk and soured with a lactic starter. It is available in a range of fat levels starting with practically no fat or low-fat, which is called Magerquark up to 40 percent fat.
Quark is very popular in Germany. Germans eat more than 17 lbs per person per year. It is eaten plain on its own or with herbs, nuts, garlic to make it savory or with fruit or jam to make it into a dessert or fruit spread. It is used in many German dishes for dressings, sauces or dips and it is the secret of a perfect cheese cake. In parts of Southern Germany and in Austria, Quark is also called “Topfen”.
Quark Cheese (Sauermilchkäse )
This typically German cheese specialty has remained popular for centuries ad was originally made on hundreds of small farms throughout the country. Today this cheese is widely produced in areas such as Lower Saxony, Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. Quark Cheese is low in fat but high in protein.
Rahm Frischkäse and Doppelrahm Frischkäse (Rahm Frischkäse and Doppelrahm Frischkäse)
Both of these cheeses are made by adding more cream to Quark, although in the case of Doppelrahm Frischkäse, double cream is added. Both types of cheese are firmer, spreadable cheese, often sold in small foil-wrapped cubes. They are similar to cream cheese such as Philadelphia.
A close cousin of Limburger, this also comes from Belgium. However, it is smaller, softer and milder. The smell is also less intense.
Smoked Cheese (Räucherkäse)
This is one of Germany’s most recognized and loved cheese exports. It is traditionally made using Bavarian Emmentaler and is processed and then smoked. It is available in all shapes and sizes. It is also sometimes produced with chopped ham.
It is one of Germany’s oldest cheeses, first produced in the mid-19th century in Steinbusch, now Choszczno in Poland. During the time of the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany), it was the favorite cheese from the Mecklenburg dairies.
This cheese was originally made by German immigrants living on the Russian Steppes. Present day versions are greyish-yellow in colour with regular holes and a piquant, full-bodied flavour.
This is one of Germany’s native cheeses that comes from the former province of East Prussia. It is mainly produced in Northern Germany. It has a moist and creamy texture and a mild taste with a distinctive tang. Some brands of Tilsiter are produced with herbs, pepper and caraway seeds.
This mild cheese was first created in France by Trappist monks. It is made mostly in southern and central Germany and is perfect for slicing.
Washed Rind Cheese (Rotschmierkäse)
Literally translated as “red mold cheese”, this family of cheeses is sometimes referred to as the “the stickies and the smellies” since they have a pungent aroma and the mold on the surface is sticky. Most washed rind cheeses were originally produced in monasteries, since they are time-consuming to produce and therefore suited the slower lifestyle of the monks.
Literally translated this means “wine cheese”. It was given this name because it was invented early in the 20th century by German cheese makers as an accompaniment to the fruity wines of the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. It is a mild, creamy cheese that is produced in small 3-ounce cylinders.
The name of this cheese translates as “white lacquer cheese”, which refers to its varnish-like mold surface. It is also known as Bayerische Bierkäse (Bavarian Beer Cheese) and is a southern specialty that goes well with German beer. It has quite a strong smell and a powerful flavor.
Like Tilsiter, Wilstermarschkäse is said to have been first made by Dutch immigrants. It is made only in a dairy in Itzehoe, using whole or partially skimmed milk from the region. It is popular for breakfast and perfect for slicing, although sadly it is not easy to find. It has small holes and a light, tangy, sour flavor. Wilstermarschkäse is also known as Holsteinermarschkäse or just Marschkäse.