Made from pasteurized cow’s milk, Norway’s best known and most widely produced cheese is Jarlsberg. Although a couple of different legends exist about the origins of the cheese, the true development of Jarlsberg began in 1956 with research conducted by the Agricultural University of Norway. The recipe, which took ten years to perfect before being considered ready for full scale production, is based on a combination of the recipes for traditional Gouda and Swiss Emmental. The recipe has remained virtually unchanged over the decades, and still uses a blend of cheese cultures that include mesophilic lactic acid bacteria (used commonly in Gouda) and propionic bacteria (used in Emmental). The cheese was named Jarlsberg (Jarl means “Earl” in Norwegian) after the Jarlsberg Manor in Vestfold. This area is known to have been home to the site of Norway’s first dairy in 1815 and although no cheese resembling modern-day Jarlsberg was ever made there, the region became known for its dairying and cheesemaking, especially during the summer months. The original cheesemaker of Jarlsberg was dairy student named Per Sakshaug who worked under the supervision of Professor Ystgaard at the University of Norway’s Dairy School. In more recent years, production of Jarlsberg switched over to a company called Tine (pronounced “Teenah”), Norway’s largest dairy co-operative and cheese producer. Jarlsberg accounts for over 80% of all Norwegian cheese exports. Tine has taken the brand to a new level and, in addition to continuing the traditional version of Jarlsberg, has also introduced other varieties varieties such as extra aged, low fat and rindless as well as overseeing production of the cheese in the USA and Ireland. Although production of Jarlsberg is highly mechanized, the end results are consistent and widely appreciated. Milk for cheesemaking is sourced from Tine’s co-operative dairy farms and transported to the cheese plant in Tine’s milk trucks. The dairy farmers receive considerable support from the company, thus ensuring a consistent and high quality milk supply. Jarlsberg is an all-purpose cheese, good for both cooking and eating as a snack. Due to its capacity to melt easily, it is an ideal ingredient for grilled cheese sandwiches or panini.
Since Jarlsberg is made from semi-skimmed milk, flavors are mild, buttery, slightly sweet and balanced. The texture of the cheese is smooth and firm, characterized by the presence of large round holes or “eyes”.
Appropriate pairings include a delicate Chenin Blanc, crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Gewurztraminer. Soft Merlot or medium-bodied Malbec are good choices, too. Pair with plums and apricots, figs, grapes, apple and pear, assorted hams, black, dark or rye breads and nuts.