Tilsit (or Tilsitter) is a mild semi-hard cheese that originated in Switzerland but now, like Gouda and others, is produced commercially in many places. We have two versions in the store at this writing. Both come from Austria and in this case we have an example of the lower priced version actually being more flavorful than the higher priced one. The higher priced one, Black Knight (in black wax), looks the part though.
Unlike Gouda (blogpost 5/8/13), Tilsit's historic roots are firm. The Westphal family of Switzerland migrated to the town of Tilsit in German East Prussia in the mid-nineteenth century where they reproduced the cheese they had previously made in the homeland but with different results. Apparently the molds active in the Tilsit area were much different than what lived in Switzerland.
Tilsit is a smear-ripened cheese produced by rubbing a bacteria solution on the outside of the cheese during aging to develop stronger flavors in the cheese. Sometimes an older cheese is rubbed on a young one to transfer the microorganisms for the same effect. The smear also protects the cheese by inhibiting the growth of undesirable bacterias while adding a pinkish-orangish color to the outside of the pale yellow cheese.
The Tilsits that we have in the store are good, safe crowd pleasers. They are mass produced from pasteurized cow's milk with a 30-60% milk fat content and aged for two months before going to market. They would do any tray arrangement proud. The flavor is subtle but undeniable. It's a good cheese but yet a far cry from the original product described above. This cheese may be cubed on salads or melted in sauces or on potatoes or burgers. In its artisanal form, the Tilsit would have been a natural on a coarse dark bread with a dark ale to wash it down. The commercial versions would seem to pair well with light reds, roses, and white wines. The former, a working man's cheese; the latter, for the rest of us.
Join us here on Friday October 4th between 5 and 7pm as we taste another lineup of red wines as we move into the cool weather season. The Tilsit will be on the table.