Cheese, Norwegian Necessities

A look at the famous brown cheese of Norway with a sort discussion on the most famous few

Nothing beats a Norwegian breakfast – if’s huge and the selection of food mind boggling. Tables are piled with herrings (salted and pickled), smoked salmon, boiled and fried eggs, potatoes, bacon, hams fruit, fruit juices, cornflakes, milk, buttermilk, coffee, tea, sour milk and if your are really lucky, cheese! Glorious, glorious cheese takes pride of place and the unusual Norwegian cheese not only lends character but produces a taste sensation unique to this beautiful country.

Cheese in Norway starts with the farmers – the Alpine farmers.  Because of the Norwegian geography, mountain pastures start at the timberlines or just above them – a small distance from the farmyards.  Fifty kilometers between pastures are not unusual and, whilst in Southern Hemisphere terms that would be just around the corner, in Norwegian terms that’s one hell of distance which is why they are used as pastures for sheep, goats and cows. Similarly to Switzerland, the animals are driven to pasture in the middle of summer, around June and brought down again in September, towards the end.

Støl (mountain pasture homes, image below) are built for those caring animals and processing the milk so that that they can spend summer there with their animals. These cute little homes, built in clusters so that a budeien (a dairy maid) could get quick assistance from a neighbour should the need arise, are made of wood.  They have additional rooms called the melkebu and the ystarom where the milk will be kept and where butter and cheese can be hygienically made.  The animals themselves live in sheds called fjøs.  Nowadays the homes have electricity for convenience and so that the milking can be done electronically.

Not too well known, the following cheese is typical of Norway and with the exception of the Jarslburg, seldom bought outside Norway.

Gamalost

a cheese made from soured low fat milk – never before has non fat tasted so good! A labour intensive process when traditionally made, this is not always the case today. A lactic starter is added to low fat milk in order to sour it and after a few days the milk is heated, the curds separated and the cheese pressed into forms (see image above ). Once the forms are removed, mould is rubbed on the surface by hand.

Pultost

a traditional Norwegian cheese made originally from buttermilk and often called sour milk cheese. During the processing it is flavoured with caraway seeds (or even aniseeds) and and an intensely alluring, spreadable cheese is the result. The flavour is intense and the aroma strong! Interestingly, one can buy it in curd form as well.  Occasionally referred to as Ramost or Knaost, it is a must try on your next trip to Norway.

Mysost

made when the whey of cow’s milk is so thick that the lactose starts to crystallize, this lightly salted, dark caramel cheese turns into silky smooth bliss that has a distinct sweet-sour flavour. It is unusual but once accustomed, you can’t wait for your next “hit”.

Gjeitost

much like Mysost but made from the whey of goats cheese, it’s lighter but as tasty and as unusual. The Gyetost certainly has my vote!

Gudbrandsdalsost

whey from both cow and goatsmilk is combined to create an unusual but superb fresh cheese – the word means cheese from Gudbrandsdal. Thinly sliced on malt loaf it becomes one of my all-time special cheeses.

Jarlsburg,

made for the first time by Anders Larsen Bakke in the mid 1800’s, production was discontinued early on in 1900.  It was made again for the first time in 1959 by Ola Ystgaard, a university professor. The name comes from an old Vikings settlement in Oslo Fjord.  There are similarities to the Swiss Emmentahler cheese in that it has a semi-firm interior, irregular holes and a yellow waxy rind and even though the taste can also be described as slightly sweet, the similarity ends there.

Snøfrisk

(it means snow fresh) a preservative free cheese made from goats milk, produced for the first time in 1994 and comes in two flavours. Buy, the plain or flavoured with ground juniper berries to be spread on crackers for an unforgettable experience.

Ridder

– a mild, surface ripened, semisoft cheese that has an edible rind and is glorious with crackers and berries – and these are only a few reasons why a culinary trip to Norway is so essential in the education of the palate!

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Cheese, Norwegian Necessities

  1. I’m drooling! Can we get any Norwegian Cheese in South Africa?

  2. I am certain that I would love a norwegian breakfast. The cheese alone is enough to win me over but pickled herring?? YUM! Certainly beats the typical “italian” breakfast of espresso and a small pastry.😉

  3. I’m afraid not – unless a specialized shop has opened it’s doors behind my back!!
    We do get the Jarlsberg, though.

  4. Rowena – I do love the Italian breakfast though …… and then Norwegian for brunch! 🙂

  5. Jacoba, I have had Jarlsberg chesse but I have never tried this cheese though it sounds amazing! I will see if I can find some at my cheesemonger’s shop. As for breakfasts in Norway, they sound like my kind of morning affair!🙂 Thanks for an informative and tasty posting.

  6. Sam, it’s absolutely delicious! I would be interested to know whether you can …. in most countries, as I said, it’s almost impossible.

    My pleasure – I work hard to try and keep up with guys like you! 🙂

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