The Munster cheese: Introduction
The Munster cheese is the cheese which best characterises the Alsace region and its terrain. The name “Munster” evolved from “Monastère”-“Monstère”- “Munstère.” On the other side of the Vosges, the Gérardmer (Géromé in patois), another cheese which is identical to Munster was fabricated. This Munster Géromé cheese, which is only different due to its geographical distinction, is also recognised as AOC, along with the Munster cheese. The Munster cheese is often eaten with cumin or caraway seeds, especially in Paris.
In the areas where it is produced, the Munster cheese is not eaten with bread, but often with hot potatoes. In Haute-Alsace, in the Alsatian Jura, it is eaten in salads. The Munster cheese is in the shape of a flat cylinder with a diameter of 13 to 19cm, a thickness of between 2.4 and 8cm and a weight of 450g to 6kg. The Appellation d’Origine cheese is a development of the “Petits Munsters” which had a diameter of between 7 and 12cm, a thickness of 2 to 6cm and a weighed 120grams. The Munster cheese is matured for between 2 and 3 months in a humid cave where it is washed periodically.
Exterior appearance of the Munster cheese: glossy, red-brick coloured rind
Odour of the Munster cheese: strong and penetrating
Texture of the Munster cheese: soft, supple
Taste of the Munster cheese: strong bouquet reminiscent of the terrain of the area of production
The Munster cheese has been an AOC cheese since 1978.
History of the Munster cheese
The history of the Munster cheese is very long. It is presumed that the cheese is linked to the monastery which, in the 7th Century, gave birth to the town of Munster and is where the monks created the cheese for the needs of the community. Its name is a modification of the word ‘monastère.’ In 668AD, the Benedictine monks who had come from Italy built a monastery in Alsace, in the valley of the Fecht, in honour of Saint Gregory. The surrounding area naturally took the name Val Saint Grégoire and then the valley of Munster, from the latin ‘monasterium.’ The evolution of the word being; Monasterium, monastère, Munster. The Munster cheese comes from the eastern side of the Vosges.
The town of Munster was later part of the Decapolis (the alliance formed by 10 major cities of the Holy Roman Empire in the Alsace region). On the other side of the valley, the other identical cheese, the Muster Géromé was being made at as well. The Munster and Munster Géromé were principally sold at the market of Gérardmer. The price was fixed on the 23rd of June each year, and each year this date was celebrated with a big fete.
Since this period, Alsace and Lorraine have combined their talents to develop the same cheese. This is because the herds of cows passed by the stubbles of the massif of Vosge on the side of Lorraine. The rent for these stubbles, which were owned by the Duke of Lorraine, was paid in the form of a day of cheese producing, which was carried out in Gérardmer (Géromé in the diamect of Vosges). From the 13th Century, the ‘Munster’ cheese was also called Géromé. The cheese became popular from the 16th Century, it began to be produced in large quantities from the beginning of the 17th Century, whilst the squabble still going on as to which cheese was the first to have been produced, the Géromé or the Munster.