Tilsit cheese is a creamy, semi-firm cheese. In texture it is similar to Havarti, but it has a richer taste.
It is made from cow’s milk. The milk is usually partially-skimmed, but sometimes whole. The milk may or may not be pasteurized, depending on where the cheese is made.
Tilsit is made in many countries.
The partially-skimmed milk is warmed to 30 C (85 F). (35 C / 95 F if whole milk is being used.) Starter is added, along with colour and rennet. Curd forms within 40 minutes, then the curd is cut into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces. It is then warmed to 42 to 46 C (108 to 115F) for 30 to 40 minutes. During this time, the curd will harden and reduce to about pea-sized.
The whey is drained off, then the curd is packed (but not pressed) into moulds. The moulds are drained for a day, and turned several times during that. The cheeses are then removed from the moulds, and either rubbed with salt or dipped in brine.
The cheeses are dried, and then aged on shelves during which time they are wiped with brine and turned. The rind turns yellowish with a mould and then reddish. The mould is wiped off from time to time. The cheeses are aged either 2 to 3 months, or 5 to 6 months. (Note: In Slovenia, Tilsit is sold as an unaged, fresh cheese.)
The cheeses will be 23 to 25 cm (9 to 10 inches ) wide and 10 to 14 cm (4 to 5 ½ inches) high. Inside, the cheese is semi-firm but pliable, and yellow with tiny holes.
45 kg (100 pounds) of whole milk will make 4 ½ kg (10 pounds) of cheese; 45 kg (100 pounds) of skim milk will make 2 ¾ kg (6 pounds) of cheese.
Tilsit in Switzerland
In Switzerland, where production of the cheese started in 1893, the milk comes from cows in the cantons of Thurgau, St. Gall and Zurich. A red label on the cheese means raw milk, a green label means pasteurized milk, a yellow label means cream added, and a blue label means ¼ fat.
Per 100 g (3.5 oz): Calories 340, Carbohydrate 2 g, Protein 24 g
Tilsit cheese dates from the 1700s. The story is that it was invented in Prussia by Dutch immigrants in Tilsit, East Prussia actually trying to make gouda.
The recipe spread to many other countries: Austria, Denmark, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland.
The town of Tilsit is also famous for the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, signed by Napoleon, Alexander I of Russia and Frederick William III of Prussia. France made peace with Russia (temporarily — until 1812) and gave Russia a free hand in Finland. Tilsit was transferred to Russia from Germany at the end of the Second World War in 1945. Though Tilsit has disappeared off the map, being now a town called “Sovetsk” in the Kaliningrad area of Russia, Tilsit cheese is still made there and called that.
Also called Tilsiter and Ragnit.