Liederkranz is a defunct American cheese that was meant to be reminiscent of Limburger, while having a far milder taste and aroma.
Made from pasteurized whole cow’s milk, it was washed with brine as it was matured.
When young the cheeses were semi-firm and pale inside, but as they aged they became soft, almost spreadable, and turned a honey-colour inside. The rind also changed from pale yellow to golden.
The eating advice for Liederkranz Cheese was to serve at room temperature.
Liederkranz was created by Emil Frey as a North American version of Limburger, in 1892, in Monroe, New York, USA.
Frey (born Switzerland 1867 – died 11 January 1951) had come to America with his father, a cheesemaker and farmer. He started working for the Monroe Cheese Company on Stage Road in Monroe, New York in 1888.
One of the company owners was a man named Adolphe Tode. He also owned a delicatessen (the Manhatten Delicatessen), and found that too many of the cheeses he imported for his deli were spoiled by the time they arrived. Consequently, in 1889, Tode asked his people at the cheese factory to come up with a version of Limburger cheese (known as Bismarck Schlosskasse cheese at the time) so he could have a reliable local source of it.
In 1891, Frey came up with Liederkranz. It wasn’t exactly Limburger, but Tode liked it nonetheless — and asked him to concentrate on it. They named the cheese after the name of a New York choral singing group called the “Liederkranz” group. In the same year, though, Tode lost ownership of the cheese when the company was foreclosed by the Goshen Savings Bank, and sold to a Jacob Weisl, a New York food wholesaler.
Production of the cheese continued, though, with Frey as the supervisor. During World War 1 (1914 – 1918), when America was at war with Germany for two years, the cheese was temporarily renamed to “La Vatel”, because popular sentiment was against German-sounding things.
In the 1920s, farmland in New York started to disappear, making it harder to get milk in the quantities and at the prices needed. Consequently, in January 1926, production of Liederkrantz was moved to Van Wert, Ohio. Frey, his wife, and their daughter Mildred moved to the Ohio plant in July of that year. The couple had a son named Robert.
The first batch of Liederkranz in Ohio was a disaster — it didn’t taste anything like what it was supposed to. Frey had all the wooden shelving from Monroe shipped to him, to recover the bacteria for the cheese from the wood. He was successful, and the next batch came out true.
In 1929, Carl Weisl, president of Monroe, announced the sale of the company to Borden. It was not a bad shift, though. Sales of Liederkranz prospered under Borden.
Frey had stayed with the cheese through all these changes, even advancing to become a General Manager of the company. He finally retired in 1938, but even in retirement, he often dropped in to check on his cheese and offer advice.
In 1973, fire damaged part of the cheese factory where the Liederkranz was produced, reducing output for a while.
On 18 December 1981, Borden ceased production of any cheeses except processed cheeses. They closed the Van Wert, Ohio, factory completely.
In June 1982, the Van Wert plant and the rights to make Liederkranz were bought by the Fisher Cheese Company.
In August 1985, a batch of Liederkranz (and other cheeses) were found to be contaminated with Listeria. Fisher withdrew the cheeses, and Liederkranz never reappeared on the market.
As of 2005, Liederkranz is not in production, but the rights to it are now owned by the Beatrice Foods Company.
Some food writers speculate that the special bacteria needed for the cheese has been lost; some speculate that it has been kept alive, frozen. Some conspiracy theorists even speculate that the 1973 fire was deliberately set in an attempt to destroy the bacteria and the special wooden shelving.
Liederkranz means “Wreath of Songs.”