150-Year-Old Brown Norwegian Cheese: Brunost

Photo : Robyn Lee.

LATEST ARTICLES

If you
see a Norwegian eating an open-faced sandwich with a slice of something reddish-brown,
’It’s Brunost – brown cheese.’ It doesn’t look like cheese, you think, but you
take a bite anyway.

’No way
is this cheese!’, you exclaim.

And you
would be perfectly correct. Strictly speaking it isn’t, but next to cross
country skiing and trolls there are few things more Norwegian than an
open-faced sandwich of Brunost, regarded as one of Norway’s national prides.

There are
actually few other foods that are included in your luggage when Norwegians
traveling abroad. Brown cheese is some of what makes Norwegians Norwegians.

Brown
cheese is, in this sense, quintessentially Norwegian, and imbued with all the
romantic notions of national identity in this oil-rich country. It is really
only eaten in Norway (apart from a few plucky Swedes who eat something similar
called mesost).

No Sugar, No Additives

Brunost
is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream and whey carefully for several
hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugar into caramel
which gives the cheese its characteristic taste. It is ready for consumption as
soon as it is packed in suitable sized blocks. A low-fat variant is made by
increasing the proportion of whey to milk and cream.

The
original Brunost is made with goat whey only, using the same technique.

If boiled
for a shorter time than usual, one gets the spreadable version called prim in
Norwegian (or messmör in Swedish and ’mysingur’ in Icelandic). Prim had been
made in Norway for a long time when Anne Hov, a farmer’s wife got the idea of
putting cream into the cheese. She got a good price for her new fatty cheese,
and this merchandise is said to have saved the Gudbrands valley financially in
the 1880s.

A Norwegian Classic in Kitchen and School Food

Primarily
a Norwegian product, the cheeses are also produced and sold in Sweden. They are
also sold in the Upper Midwest, and by specialty cheesemongers and some larger
supermarkets all over Europe,North America and Australia. Today several types
of brunost are offered in most shops in Norway and Sweden.

TINE
meierier produce most of the brunost in Norway, while Fjällbrynt is the biggest
producer in Sweden. In Iceland, the company Mjólkursamsalan produces brunost.
Several local dairies in Norway produce their own versions. Experimental
versions with nuts and honey or chocolate have been tried, without very much
success.

Like any
intensely flavoured ingredient, brown cheese is endlessly versatile. A typical
Norwegian dish is finnbiff or venison stew: brown cheese is the secret
ingredient that adds both depth of flavour and richness to the sauce. It can
also be used in a sauce for meatballs with its savoury autumnal and winter
flavours.

But the
best way to enjoy brown cheese is to eat it with real bread (the good stuff,
full of grains). Washed down with a cup of tea or coffee this makes the perfect
breakfast. As Nordic Nibbler rightly suggests, It is a perfect accompany for
waffles.

In 150th anniversary of its invention in a Norwegian
farm, Brunost today remains a very popular dairy product. Annual production is
approximately 12 million kilograms, or almost 4kg per Norwegian.

Waffle wih Brunost

5 eggs

1/2 cup
sugar

1 tsp.
ground cardamom

1 cup
flour

1 tsp.
baking powder

Pinch of
salt

1 cup
sour cream

1/2 cup
melted butter

One of
the best accompany for brunost is waffle (vaffel).  The vafler in Norway are served for dessert
at any time of day. The most important feature of the Norwegian vafler is its
unique sweetness and softness.

To have
this special form, mix eggs, sugar, and cardamom together in a big bowl. Add in
flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix these ingredients and beat in sour cream
and butter until the batter is smooth. Let the batter sit for about 20 minutes
before making the waffles. Heat up the iron and brush some of the butter of the
surface, you are now ready to make waffles. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter in the
iron and wait for the waffle to become light brown.

Now it is time for serving in Norwegian way: put a
slice of brunnost and jam.

Comments