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Limburger is a cheese that originated during the 19th century in the historical Duchy of Limburg, which is now divided among modern-day Belgium, Germany, and Netherlands. The cheese is especially known for its pungent odor commonly compared to the scent of body odor .
In America, it was first produced in 1867 by Rudolph Benkerts in his cellar from pasteurized goat's milk. A few years later, 25 factories produced this cheese. Today, most Limburger is made in Germany. The Chalet Cheese Cooperative in Monroe, Wisconsin is the only American company that makes this cheese. This cheese also is manufactured in Canada by the Oak Grove Cheese Company in New Hamburg, Ontario.
Herve cheese is a type of Limburger cheese still produced in the Land of Herve, in the territory of the old Duchy of Limburg. Herve is located near Liège, and the borders separating Belgium from the Netherlands and Germany. The "Pays de Herve" is a hilly area between the Vesdre and Meuse rivers.
In its first month, the cheese is firmer and more crumbly, similar to the texture of feta cheese. After about six weeks, the cheese becomes softer along the edges but is still firm on the inside and can be described as salty and chalky. After two months of its life, it is mostly creamy and much smoother. Once it reaches three months, the cheese produces its notorious smell because the bacterium used to ferment Limburger cheese and many other smear-ripened cheeses is Brevibacterium linens, the same one found on human skin that is partially responsible for body odor.
One of the most traditional forms of eating limburger is the limburger sandwich. After three months, when the cheese has ripened, it becomes spreadable. The cheese is often spread thickly (> 0.5 cm) on firm textured 100% rye bread, with a large, thick slice of onion, and is typically served with strong black coffee or beer. Alternatively, for heartier eaters, chunks or slices of the cheese up to 1.5 cm (0.6 in) thick can be cut off the block and placed in the sandwich. This sandwich still remains very popular among the descendants of German immigrants residing in the midwest part of America, such as in Cincinnati, or German Village in Columbus, Ohio. However, it is markedly less popular among the descendants born after ca. 1960, mainly because of the permeating smell, and the inconvenience of going to specialty cheese and sausage shops to obtain it. In Wisconsin, the Limburger sandwich can be found on menus at certain restaurants, accompanied with brown mustard.
Limburger and its characteristic odor are a frequent butt of jokes and gags. In 2006, a study showing that the malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae) is attracted equally to the smell of Limburger and to the smell of human feet earned the Ig Nobel Prize in the area of biology.
A 100 gram serving of Limburger contains about 327 calories (1,370 kJ) and has 27 grams of fat, which is about 42 percent of the daily value of a person eating on a 2,000 calories (8,400 kJ) per day diet. Although it does provide calcium, protein and Vitamin A, it also makes up for 30 percent of the daily value of cholesterol and 33 percent of the daily value of sodium. This assumes eating 3.5 servings of the cheese.
In popular culture
- Limburger cheese is a main plot device in the 1877 short story "The Invalid's Story" by Mark Twain.
- Limburger was featured in various gags in the comedy shorts of The Three Stooges and in the The Little Rascals and Our Gang comedies. Typically, a sick character would accidentally replace a jar of salve with Limburger cheese. This led to the cheese being spread on the character's chest instead of the salve. The character would then walk in public only to be shooed away because of the stench while the character was oblivious to the fact that he just smeared Limburger cheese on himself. Limburger was also a commonly-used device in Golden Age cartoons, for example in the Warner Bros. cartoon Porky's Pastry Pirates. In another Warner Bros cartoon Sylvester the cat is tricked by Speedy Gonzales and is trapped in a storage room filled with Limburger cheese. Sylvester quickly becomes ill and turns green from the odor of the cheese.
- The 1979 song "Dance This Mess Around" by The B-52's features the repeatedly shouted line, "Why don't you dance with me?! I'm not no limburger!" in reference to this cheese's pungent odor.
- A character in Samuel R Delany's The Mad Man describes the putrid sperm in his foreskin as "really first class Limburger".
- One of the many cheeses asked for in the Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python.
- Lawrence Limburger is the name of a character in the animated TV series Biker Mice from Mars.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Gwendolyn Novak surreptitiously places a piece of Limburger in a ventilation duct in the office of Station Administrator Sethos, turning down the thermostat so that the odor will not become apparent right away. When the office becomes uncomfortably cold, Sethos will turn up the heat, causing the cheese to melt.
- In William Dana Street's fanciful short story Giant Grummer's Christmas, the eponymous villain lives in a castle constructed entirely of Limburger cheese.
- Mighty Mouse's weakness is Limburger cheese, a la Superman's Kryponite.
- In the 2001 game Luigi's Mansion, one of the boos is called Limbooger, a pun on Limburger.