Chalet Cheese Creamery Profile
Chalet in the only cheese plant in the United States still making Limburger cheese, and the cooperative is still making Limburger the old-fashioned, labor-intensive way. "Each piece of cheese is handled 12 times before it leaves the factory," says Myron Olson, a big, round-faced man with a respect for Limburger that shows in the bright gaze of his eyes. He is manager of the cooperative, following in the footsteps of the renowned Albert Deppeler, who made Limburger and managed the factory for decades before him. The Limburger-making process Myron describes sounds much like other cheeses, at least in the first stages: special cultures and rennet are added to whole milk, which when thickened is cut with wire knives, stirred and heated to release the liquid whey, pumped into forms, and drained to release more whey.
But then things begin to look different: the cheese is cut into pieces, rolled in salt, and returned to the frames for a brief dry-brining. Soon the individual pieces, which are the size and shape of small bricks, are laid side by side on knot-free pine boards that have been cured specially for this purpose. "You want the bacteria to grow on the boards," says Myron. "This inoculates the cheese and protects it from other bacteria that could grow."
Placed in a cool, ultra-moist cellar, the bricks are wetted daily and brushed with a bacteria- infused solution (called the "smear") twice during their seven-day stay. Eventually the cheese is weighed out and hand-wrapped in parchment and waxed paper. Country Castle, the Chalet Cheese label, goes on about 20% of the Limburger; the rest is sold wholesale under other labels.
Olson emphasizes the importance of the wooden boards by describing what happened in 1947 when the cooperative, in a joint venture with Kraft Foods, built the current plant and installed new equipment, boards and all. "They wanted to become the most modern, the best Limburger factory in the world," says Myron. "But what happened was they got green cheese---it failed. They had to get out the old boards. And these have been used ever since." Since Chalet Cheese is the source for all domestic Limburger sold in the nation, consumers shouldn't find variations from label to label. Except, that is, for the variations that should occur through aging.