In the late 19th century, Adolph Tode, owner of the Monroe Cheese Company in New York’s Hudson Valley, had a wave of German customers to appease. They longed for Bismarck Schlosskäse—a soft, stinky cheese from their homeland—but Tode couldn’t successfully import such perishable products, as refrigeration had yet to be invented.
Tode tasked his employees with creating a domestic iteration, and it was Emil Frey (a Swiss cheesemaker who later invented Velveeta) who produced a compelling replica in 1891. Small, wooden boxes of Liederkranz became the United States’ answer to Germany’s spreadable, pungent cheeses, much to the delight of immigrants.
Liederkranz offered distinct bold and creamy notes while still evoking beloved German cheeses. As to the origin of its name, most stories point to a New York City singing society. Before its release, members of the Liederkranz Club sampled the cheese and sang its praises. Tode named it in their honor.
While the cheese was a hit, it slowly disappeared over the course of the 20th century. In the 1920s, Tode sold his company, and the business, which relocated to Van Wert, Ohio, changed hands several more times. According to the Monroe Historical Society, inspectors discovered bacterial contamination in a batch of Liederkrantz in 1985, and production ceased.
In the mid-2000s, DCI Cheese Co., based in Richfield, Wisconsin, took ownership of the extinct cheese. Using cultures developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, they reintroduced Liederkranz to the market in 2010.
Though importing cheese is effortless today, Liederkranz remains a relic from a time when attempts to replicate the flavors of Europe led to new and delicious American delights.
Where to Try It
Bavarian Sausage Website6353 Nesbitt Rd, Madison, Wisconsin, 53719, United States
This shop specializes in all things sausage and cheese.
Wilson's Cheese Shoppe Website130 N. Mable St. (M-13), Pinconning, Michigan, 48650, United States
This cheese, meat, and other specialty foods store has been open since 1939.