World Cheese Encyclopaedia - Each Sunday learn all about a new cheese.
This week Brunost from Norway.
Country: Norway 🇳🇴 (and other Scandinavian countries)
Region: All Norway
Made from: Cow & Goat’s milk
Pasteurised: Yes and No
Texture: Dense, fudge-like
Taste: Caramel, sweet, salty, goaty
Brunostk ("brown cheese") is also known as mysost or whey cheese (Norwegian), .mesost (Swedish), meesjuusto (Finnish), mysuostur (Icelandic), myseost (Danish), and Braunkäse (German).
These are all a family of cheese-related foods made with whey, milk, and/or cream. The term is often used to just refer to the Gudbrandsdalsost ("Gudbrandsdal Cheese") type, which is the most popular variety and dates back 150 years in Norway. It is regarded as an iconic Norwegian food and considered to be an important part of Norwegian gastronomical and cultural identity and heritage. The varieties of Brunost most frequently found outside of Norway are Geitost which is made with a mixture of goats and cow's milk, Ekte Geitost made with goat’s milk only, and Gudbrandsdalsost.
Brunost is a sweet, dense caramelized brown Scandinavian whey cheese. The cheese gets its brown First, the curd used to make traditional cheese is separated and the whey is then boiled and mixed with a blend of cream and goat’s milk. This blend is then boiled in big kettles to dissolve the sugars and caramelise. The longer the mixture is boiled the darker and richer the colour of the cheese. The mixture is then filled into bags and allowed to cool so the sugars crystallise. There is no maturation period, it is ready to eat. The Brunost is creamy, with caramel flavors yet salty. Some have described the taste as « salty goat’s fudge ».colour and fudge-like texture from the slow simmering process which allows the milk sugars to caramelize.
How to Enjoy It
The most common way to serve Brunost is to slice it using a cheese slicer. It is very versatile and is served in many ways and eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is served on toast, or crispbread with jam or with pancakes or waffles, and is also used as an ingredient in cooking in sauces for venison for example.
The creation of Brunost is commonly attributed to the milkmaid Anne Hov from the rural valley of Gudbrandsdalen. Anne Olsdotter Kvålen was born in Skåbu on 6 January 1846. Her father, Ola Kvålen, and her mother, Kari, were both from Fron in the Gudbrandsdal valley. Ola and Kari Kvålen bought Solbrå farm from the Norwegian state in 1850.
The summer she turned 16, she was made responsible for running Solbrå’s mountain farm, situated with a cluster of other mountain dairy farms on the slopes of the beautiful Gudbrandsdalen. From then on, she was in charge of the mountain farm every summer. The work involved treating and preserving the milk, churning butter, making cheese and boiling the whey. One summer evening in 1863, Anne was visiting the neighbouring mountain farm. Here she was given some brown cheese to eat made from the whey of cows’ milk. It had a deep, full-bodied flavour which Anne liked very much. She got permission from her father to try to make a similar cheese on their own farm.
Anne decided to pour cream into the whey that she was boiling to make the cheese. When the mass had cooked down to the right rich consistency over several hours, she scooped it into a trough. She then stirred the mass until it was cold and kneaded it with her hands, before placing it into cheese moulds. The new variant she had created (with added cream) was well received and everyone thought it tasted good. Anne’s first Gudbrandsdalen cheese is known to have been created in the summer of 1863. There was widespread poverty in Norway in 1870-80. Conditions were so bad that today we are barely capable of imagining how hard life was for many people. The farmers of Gudbrandsdalen strove to make ends meet. In order to get better paid for their milk, 12 farmers joined together and started a dairy cooperative in December 1877.
Anne did not want to deliver milk to the dairy in Ruste, because it was so far away. And so she started making cheese at home. This time, she added both cream and goat’s milk. Anne’s “cheese factory” was pretty simple and basic. Working in her own kitchen, she boiled the whey in a The local shopkeeper found there was great demand for Anne’s flavour some cheese, first in the local areas in the Gudbrandsdal valley and subsequently in the whole of Norway.70-litre kettle over the fire. She then sold the cheese in the nearby village.
Anne Hov can bear the title as inventor of the iconic Gudbrandsdalen cheese. She was awarded The King’s Medal of Merit by the Norwegian government, in her home in Gudbrandsdalen in January 1933. Anne was thanked for her efforts in having helped save Gudbrandsdalen from financial ruin in the 1880s, precisely for developing the cheese which has subsequently become Norway’s national cheese.
Nowadays the largest producer of brunost is the Norwegian dairy co-operative Tine, who market a total of 13 varieties. The second-largest is Norwegian dairy company Synnøve Finden. There are also a number of small, artisanal producers, mainly in Norway and in the US.
Sources: Wikipedia, cheese.com, lifeinnorway.net, tinebrunost.com, Text and image of Anne Hov from the book “Gudbrandsdalsosten 125 år” by Jens Sundt.