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Brunost: Norwegian Brown Cheese

Brunost cheese sliced on brown bread

Meet a traditional Norwegian cheese that’s not really cheese, but kinda is. And oh, did I mention that it’s brown and tastes like caramel? For the next segment in my Cheese Around the World blog series, we explore brunost. Want to explore more cheeses from around the world? Be sure to read my post on Australian Cheese and Olive Damper.

A cheese of many names, Brunost is also known as Geitost, Gjetost, Gudbrandsdalen, and even Ski Queen. Apparently along with Brunost’s unique coloring, flavor, and flammability, it’s also packed by Norwegian skiers on the slopes as a quick snack to get them over the edge of hunger (see what I did there?). But most commonly, Brunost and other “brown cheeses” are sliced and eaten on open-faced sandwiches.

The history of this sweet treat goes back to Norwegian farmers several hundred years ago. These cheesemakers used the leftover whey from goat’s and cow’s milk to create various different kinds of foodstuffs. Among them, was Mysost, the very first of the brown cheeses. Unlike most cheese (with the exception of some ricotta), brown cheeses are made with the whey, and NOT with curds! I guess in their attempts at cutting back on waste, Norwegian farmers boiled the water out of leftover whey from cheesemaking, and created a basic, sweet, low fat “whey cheese.”

How modern brown cheeses, like the distinctly not low fat Brunost, came to be was by adding heavy cream and either goat’s milk or a combination of cow’s and goat’s milk to the mix. The whey, cream, and milk is boiled until it produces a thick, brown mass that is formed into blocks of deliciously sweet Brunost. It’s super rich, and resembles dessert more than cheese to an American palate, but in its native land this fudge-like Norwegian creation is often eaten by slicing thinly with a cheese slicer, and traditionally eaten on sandwiches, slices of bread, rolls, or Norwegian waffles. You can buy Brunost by the block at many gourmet markets, so go try some for me!

In my research about Brunost, I found stories of people eating bits of it by itself, eating them on sandwiches and what not, but the most innovative use of this brown cheese was in a fondue recipe. Feel free to check it out, and let me know how Brunost tastes!

Hungry for more? Read the final post on Russian Morozhenoe.

Photo Credit: Photo from Public Radio International

Taylor Pierola

Taylor Pierola is a Berkeley California-based culture intern

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