Tilsit cheese is a semi-hard cheese that has its origins in northern Germany and Eastern Europe. It is made from cow’s milk and has a bright yellow interior that is firm, but slices easily. Its texture is slightly grainy and it has a tangy, lightly salty flavor. The name ‘Tilsit’ comes from the latin word for cheese Tilsiter and it can be found in specialty stores around the world.
Tilsit cheese is an all-purpose cheese due to its mild flavor and soft texture. It may be eaten as is, or melted and served over sandwiches, hamburgers, and other hot dishes. For example, in Germany it is often served on open faced sandwiches or used in a cheese fondue. It’s also popular in Sweden, where it’s added to gravlax and served over diced potatoes.
In Germany, especially in the region of Schleswig-Holstein, Tilsit cheese has been produced since at least 1850. The cheese is made from cow's milk or a combination of cow's and goat's milk and is aged for between two and six months before it is sold. The product must meet precise production specifications in the production process.
Tilsit cheese is produced according to the “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO), meaning that it can only be produced within a defined geographic region, using very specific procedures, for it to be identified as Tilsit cheese. The cheese is brined and heated during production, after which it is pressed and shaped into either wheels or cylinders. After the shaping process, the cheese is traditionally packed in wooden boxes. The cheese is then allowed to mature for several months, during which time the wooden box helps to absorb moisture and therefore develop the characteristic flavors and aromas typical of Tilsit cheese.
Inside, the cheese has a creamy consistency and is pale yellow in color. Its flavor is mildly sour and acidic, due to the lactic acid generated by the bacteria in the starter cultures used in the production process. It is also slightly salty, with a hint of sweetness. The cheese can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and its texture makes it especially suitable for melting.
Tilsit cheese is a great addition to many recipes. It compliments both meats and vegetables, making it a perfect choice for pizzas, quiches, and other dishes. It can be cubed and added to salads or melted into sauces. Or, try grating some over a plate of steamed vegetables for a flavorful side dish. For an easy appetizer, top Tilsit cheese onto slices of baguette and bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes. Enjoying this cheese with a glass of white wine is sure to make any evening special.
If you want to try something more authentic, many of the best recipes featuring Tilsit cheese come from Germany. The Schleswig-Holstein region boasts of a variety of dishes that make use of the distinct flavor of this cheese. For instance, the “Wannenkäse” is a cheese fondue made with a mixture of Tilsit and Emmentaler that’s topped with onion, garlic, and paprika slices. It is eaten with a wooden spoon from a cauldron-shaped metal dish called a “Wanne”. Other regional dishes include crispy potatoes with Tilsit, tart sandwiches with ham and cream cheese, and spicy meatballs smothered in cheese and butter.
Tilsit cheese is an excellent choice for those looking to experience the unique flavor of German cooking. Its versatility and mild flavor makes it perfect for a variety of recipes, both savory and sweet. Plus, its creamy texture makes it ideal for melting and adding a highly flavorful touch to any dish. If you’re looking to take your taste buds on a journey to Germany, adding Tilsit cheese to your cooking repertoire is a great way to do it.