German Mite Cheese: Milbenkäse
In the small town of Würchwitz, Germany, small mites are idolized for helping create a unique cheese. So much so that the community built a tribute to the microscopic arachnid that gives its juices and its life to help make the specialty German mite cheese known as Milbenkäse.
Microscopic mites get locked in wooden boxes with a soft, unaged white cheese known as quark. As the tiny mites feast, they ripen the cheese. After they've completed their work, they still aren't off the hook... Consumers eat the cheese with the creepy critters still covering the rind!
Milbenkäse has been produced in the Saxony-Anhalt region since the Middle Ages, but the traditional method was almost lost in the mid-1900s. An elderly lady named Liesbeth Brauer in the 1970's was one of the only people who knew how to make this unusual cheese. She passed her knowledge along to a local science teacher who managed to preserve the tradition for decades. -via Atlas Obscura. Today, only a single company in Würchwitz produces Milbenkäse.
Milbenkäse is made by flavoring a soft, white, and unaged cheese called quark with caraway and salt. The cheese is shaped into balls, wheels, or cylinders. These are then dried and left in a wooden box containing rye flour and cheese mites. - via Atlas Obscura.
For at least 3 months, the cheese mites excrete their digestive juices all over the cheese. These juices contain enzymes that cause the cheese to ripen, turning yellow and then a darker reddish-brown. Few cheesemakers let the process continue for a year, by which time the cheese turns black!
The European Union regulations are a bit iffy when it comes to the legality of this, considering foods aren't normally allowed to contain living animals for human consumption. However, the local food safety office granted a permit for the production of Milbenkäse, keeping the tradition alive for future generations! - via Atlas Obscura.