The cult of brunost – Norwegian brown cheese – and why you have to become a believer

Brown cheese brunostBrunost. Photo: Norway Today

If you’re not Norwegian, it’s likely you’ve never heard of the legendary brunost before. Allow us to introduce you.

While this cult favorite isn’t Norway’s official national food, it’s definitely an unofficial contender that may as well be.

Did Scandinavia grow up on brunost? Sort of!

Meaning brown cheese, brunost has had cultural ties to the entire Nordic region for hundreds of years.

Archaeological finds have shown that the origins of brunost date as far back as 650 BC. A 2016 dig in Jutland, Denmark found cheese residue on pottery – and it’s thought to most likely be brunost.

But the story of the brunost we know today is a little different. Around 150 years ago, a farmer and his daughter, Anne Hov, lived deep in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley.

In the absence of goat milk to make cheese, Anne substituted cream instead. People initially thought it foolish to waste expensive cream to make cheese instead of butter; however, upon tasting the innovative creation, they changed their minds.

As the popularity of her cheese grew, Anne decided to perfect the recipe and add a couple splashes of goat milk.

The first brunost factory was built in Tretten, Norway, in 1908. The rest, they say, is history.

Creating an icon

At today’s industrial factories and farms, brunost is created when cow milk is boiled and the resulting sugars are caramelized, leading to the gooey and tangy brunost. Stronger tasting forms are made with goat milk.

When the milk is boiled and the resulting sugars are caramelized, the leftover pile of mush is our famed brunost.

So, while it does look like cheese and has its consistency, brunost isn’t actually the dairy product it’s named for. And it doesn’t taste like it either – it’s often considered sweet and caramel-tasting.

Brunost brown cheese
Photo: clogsilk / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Types of brunost

Two of Norway’s most popular varieties of brunost are Gudbrandsdalost and Geitost.

Gudbrandsdalost is named after the Gudbrandsdalen Valley where the “cheese” was first created. This variety is created with 24% goat’s milk and 76% cow’s milk.

The more traditional version, Geitost, is almost exclusively made from goat’s milk.

In addition, many regional varieties exist with varying degrees of color and taste – and depending on where you are in Norway, locals will likely claim theirs is best. You can decide for yourself by taste-tasting the beloved cheese around the country.

How to eat brunost

One characteristic of Norway’s brown cheese that makes it so popular is that it can be incorporated into whatever you see fit.

Geitost has a stronger and sweeter taste, while Gudbrandsdalost is more mellow. Both varieties nicely pair with bread, waffles or lefse, Norwegian flatbread.

For breakfast, serve it on top of toast and jam, use it to spice up waffles, or even incorporate it as a sauce for pancakes. The brown cheese can be served in this capacity along with tea or coffee.

Commonly a breakfast specialty along with jam and tea, it can be used in a grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwich.

For lunch and dinner, you can use it to create sandwiches with cold cuts. Also on the menu are brunost grilled cheese or brunost mac and cheese, more unconventional methods.

Where to enjoy brunost

Brunost is served at many cafés and restaurants and can be bought in supermarkets in the country as well. Mocca Kaffebar (not to be confused with the café of the same name in Egersund, Norway) in Oslo is a quaint coffee shop serving tea and brunost, a small teatime meal which many Norwegians take part in. In restaurants across the country, the cheese is often served with sourdough bread.

It’s difficult to find quality brunost beyond its native lands, but not impossible. Cheesemongers and some supermarkets abroad have dabbled their way into the brunost business, making the cheese accessible across the continents. The midwestern United States, in particular, has a strong brunost tradition due to its large Scandinavian diaspora.

Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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