What Is Muenster Cheese and Where Is It From, Actually?

I always assumed that muenster cheese had German origins based on name alone. But, while researching for this article I found out that was not the case. Prepare yourself for a cheesy web of deceit worthy of a thrilling murder mystery. Here’s all the sordid details you need to know about muenster cheese. 

What is muenster cheese?

Muenster is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a lot of similarities to cheddar. It has a pretty mild, slightly nutty taste, but can get pungent if allowed to age. It is easily identified by its orange rind, the result of the addition of an ingredient called annatto.

Annatto comes from the seeds of the achiote tree and is used as a food coloring for a lot of cheese including colby jack. The bright orange coloring of sharp cheddar comes from annatto. The additive also imparts a bit of flavor to the cheese, which is akin to faint nutmeg.

Where is muenster cheese from?

You already know that muenster cheese is not from Germany, even though they have a city called Münster. So, it must be from the southern Irish province of Munster, right? Nope. 

How about the French town of Munster near the German border? The one that is famous for its munster cheese? You know, the town where monks would make it in the 7th century, that tradition continuing for centuries, becoming so intrinsic to the area that the EU has given it a protected designation of origin?

Nope! Muenster cheese is from Wisconsin. PLOT TWIST! It is believed that immigrants to America brought munster cheese with them, and the muenster that developed here is quite different from the French version. French munster is practically the epitome of the stinky cheese tradition in that country, a far cry from the completely inoffensive American version. 

That “E” in the name really does make a difference!

How is muenster cheese made?

Muenster cheese production is far closer to the processed American cheese than its French counterpart. Milk is pasteurized and heated,and  mixed with rennet and a certain bacteria. The curds are separated from the whey and placed into molds where it sets. The cheese is brined and aged for a maximum of seven weeks. The annatto is added just on the outside, creating a slight rind. Pretty tame compared to stinky French/German cheese.

What is muenster cheese used for?

Because muenster is so neutral in flavor, it really can go with anything. It’s common to get it sliced from the deli and use it to make cold cut sandwiches. It can also be shredded and added to multiple cheese blends that can be used for mac & cheese, pizza, and baked potatoes.

Muenster is also sold in smaller blocks, making it great for your holiday charcuterie board. Or your everyday charcuterie board.

Does muenster cheese melt well?

Yes! Muenster melts quite well, making it perfect for grilled cheeses and hamburgers.

How do you pronounce muenster?

It’s like “monster” with a “U” instead of an “O.” Think of that famous family, The Munsters. Anyone old enough to remember them?! It’s like that.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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