25 May 2010

Brunost, Norwegian Brown Cheese

Living in Norway, I couldn’t not write about the phenomenon that is brown cheese. Brunost (or geitost) as it is known in Norwegian is a national treasure and is loved by old and young alike. Technically, though, it is not a cheese at all. Traditionally it is made from the whey of goat’s milk which is boiled for hours until most of the water has evaporated and the sugars in the whey have caramelised, giving the cheese its distinctive brown colour. Nowadays the whey is also likely to have been supplemented with goat or cow milk and cream. This ‘cheese’ is then packed into rectangular blocks, refrigerated and consumed straight away with no maturing.
To the uninitiated, the taste of brunost can come as quite a shock. It has a slightly salty and surprisingly sweet flavour with a hint of goat about it. A sort of salty goat fudge (mmm, sounds good doesn’t it). I must admit, it took me a while to get used to it but I’ve been eating it for years now and I love the stuff, and I have come to miss it when I am not in Norway.

Brunost has been made in Norway for centuries and like most traditional Norwegian food it harks back to a time when Norway was a relatively poor country. Usually the whey is thought of as a by-product of cheesemaking proper, and not for human consumption on its own (ricotta being the notable exception), but the wily Norwegians found good use for it, and it must have provided another welcome source of protein.

Today, of course, Norway is a wealthy country, but brunost remains as much a part of Norwegian life as the mountains and fjords. It can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a slice of buttered bread, with waffles, or sliced into gravy to give it a wonderful umami kick (I've even made some insanely good ice cream using it). There is no wrong time to have brunost and you will find it everywhere in Norway.

Although eaten in Sweden, it’s only really the Norwegians that have truly embraced it and regard it as part of their culinary heritage in a semi-fanatical way – in much the same manner a Brit might regard Marmite. There’s even a group on Facebook singing the delights of brown cheese with strawberry jam (not as bad as it sounds incidentally).
Brunost is always served using a cheese slicer (another Norwegian invention apparently) as it tends to disintegrate if you start hacking away at it with a knife. If you're London based and suddenly have an urge to try some then your best bet is at the Norwegian Seaman's church, where they have an annual Norwegian food festival around Christmas time. In the U.S., I was able to track down the Ski Queen brand of brunost at the local branch of Whole Foods, which is made by Tine, Norway's dairy monopoly.

46 comments:

  1. Thank you for your blog article about Brunost. I recently discovered this wonderful brown goodness at my local grocery store in the U.S. It has quickly become my and my husband's favorite cheese and we cannot stop talking about how exquisitely pleasant the flavor is.

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    1. Can you tell me the name of the grocery store? We have an exchange student from Norway this year and she brought us some of this brown cheese. We love it!!

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  2. So glad you like it! It's a bit of an acquired taste, but it's easy to get addicted to!

    When I was in the US (Chicago) recently, my daughters had a craving for brunost. After much searching, we managed to track some down at the local Whole Foods, so well done for finding some!

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  3. I love it too! Although it tastes much better in Norway (rather than in my husbands old flat in SE London!)

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  4. I was just surfing a bit and came across your nice blog. we stock 4 different kinds of brown cheese in our london store and we also do mail order.
    Bronte

    www.scandikitchen.co.uk/shop

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  5. I'm impressed. You're the first foreigner(s) I have met to aquire a taste for "brunost", and being half british / half norwegian I have met quite a few. Until now I was sure you had to grow up with it in order to be able to stomach it.

    Now for the "real" goats cheese (Ekte Geitost), huh? Now there's a challenge. ;-)

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  6. My daughter met a wonderful young lady from Norway in Spain at college, several months later she came to USA to visit my daughter. She brought us a block of brunost brown cheese; its unusual taste is great and easy to crave...very creamy, slightly wild and smoky, and lightly sweet! Thanks Norway for such awesome cheese, something we will cherish...and thanks friend for bringing us the delicious cheese!

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  7. Thank you for this article. I couldn't understand what is that I've bought today. I'm currently living in Copenhagen and this brown cheese I've never seen here before. Cant decide yet how I feel about it.

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  8. I found your post to be extremely interested but I can't say that calling it "salty goat fudge" is really enticing me to try it. Perhaps another time.

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    1. Are you kidding? Salty goat fudge is what attracted me! I'll be heading to Whole Foods this afternoon.

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  9. I loved it from the first taste, its great just wish I could get it in England!

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  10. Just tasted a block of Gudbrands at Sunday lunch in our garden (maybe last time of the year). We tracked down the sweet taste to coffee or caramel, and I went to the Internet to find out. You reveal all the secrets. I don't think we have enough in one block to make it more than a gastronomic curiosity to try once, and I was the only one to take a second piece. Otherwise we had some Roquefort a local creamy but strong Camembert, and a bit of goat Camembert.

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  11. its so badass..i love it and miss it so much..its been like 10years and its getting hard to live without it here in hawaii.please tell me some tips where to get it or do they mail brown cheese at all?tnx

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  12. You can make your own. Here is the recipe:http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/Gjetost/Gjetost.htm

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  13. The Ski Queen brand is available in the US. My new favorite way to eat it is with slices of a good crisp apple. Great treat!

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  14. Just recently on a whim my cousin picked up a block of SkiQueen at the
    Whole Foods Market in Laguna Beach California and the whole family fell
    in love with it...guess it's our Norwegian background! Do not think it
    tastes like goat...but guess I've never tasted a goat!

    Carol in California

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  15. just discovered it on a Hurtigruten voyage ,brilliant

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  16. hi there! I live in the Philippines and one of my friends brought some of these... omg! I fell inlove the first time tasted it... :) I wanted to buy some but i couldn't find it here. I guess i have to wait for another year for it. *sighs* Brunost + strawberry jam on my wheat slices = burp!

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  17. does anyone know if it's avaliable in Australia

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    1. Coles used to stock Ski Queen - some large ones may still. But in Winter you can mail order from the Norwegian Seamans Church in Sydney

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  18. You might be able to find brunost at the Vic Market in Melbourne. Also, in Sydney you could try the Norwegian Seaman's church, they usually have Norwegian foods for sale. Also I've heard that some branches of IGA might stock it.

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  19. We bought some after seeing it on the Hairy Bikers TV show and must say we love it. It definatley has a caramel taste not unlike a mild form of Scottish Tablet but not as sweet

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  20. You can also find ski queen brand at the Prahran market in Melbourne

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  21. Vic market used to have it

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  22. We were thrilled to be given some by our Norwegian neighbours who were on holiday here in France, like us Brits. I love it! We must buy some in England when we are back in the winter.
    Jane in France

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  23. I have to admit, the first time I tasted it I was a bit put off. The trick is not to think cheese...I am in love with it now and have missed it since leaving Norway. My favorite is on Knekkebrød with Tytebær! MMMMM!!!!!

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  24. Just had my 1st taste & had to google it.
    Want to know what pure EVIL tastes of?......Have a piece ;)

    Spat it out so quick, I am scared for life. Thanks Norway :(

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  25. Our Norwegian exchange student brought some with him-- so good on bread with strawberry jam! I love the sweetness and the dulce du leche flavor.

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  26. I bought some today from The Liverpool Cheese shop in Woolton, for anyone around
    Liverpool.

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  27. You have just solved a lifelong puzzle for me. When I was eight (46years ago!) my mother's Norwegian pen friend sent 'brown' cheese and a cheese slicer (never seen before!). I always wondered about this delicacy and whether it had become a figment of my young imagination! As we never found any more my older (veggie) brother took to Edam which sliced pretty well with the cheese slice and ate it by the barrow load! We were regarded as a bit quirky by friends, probably jealous of our highly prized Norwegian cheese slicer, until they hit the UK market some years later. Happy days, now I can buy some brown cheese and see if it tastes as good as I remember!

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  28. My husband traveled to Norway for work and was introduced to brown cheese and instantly loved it. He was SO eager to share it with me upon his return home to New York. (I believe he stashed some in his luggage). I loved it instantly! To our delight, We have been able to find it in various specialty stores here in the states. Unfortunately, mother, sister, aunt and uncle don't care for it much....

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  29. We have young Norwegian exchange student with us for a week. Eline is staying with our son and his family in Nebraska for the school year. Her parents sent us a large block of brown cheese and a slicer. We loved the cheese right off the bat. Fortunately,our son and his wife do not like most cheeses but their son likes the brown cheese but probably won't eat much of it. Tomorrow morning I'm going to try some brown cheese on buttered lefse and whatever else comes to mind at the moment.

    We live in Montana where there are many folks of Norwegian ancestry. Stores have lefse for sale during the Christmas-New Year holiday.

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  30. My partner now of 12 years was born in Norway. He claims that is why he fell in love with me.. I liked geitost ! It is quite easy to find here in the eastern part of the states.

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  31. I'm a Brit and 10 years ago had a Norwegian girlfriend who introduced me to Brunost, Fløtemysost and all the other wonderful 'cheeses' that Norway has to offer. I liked it instantly. The sweetness caused by the caramelisation is very unusual and addictive; and as already mentioned, does go surprisingly well with jam. Sadly my girlfriend and I are no longer together; however, she's coming to visit me in March as I now live and work in Bangkok. "Would you like me to bring anything for you," she said. I had no hesitation. "Brunost and Fløtemysost!" Boy, I'm I looking forward to tasting that again :-)

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  32. My Thai sister in law who lives in Norway just brought us some and although it doesn't taste of cheese it grills reasonably well with bacon and tomato on toast.

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  33. I fear this event will have done more to put Brunost on the culinary map than anything else in its heritage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/22/norway-cheese-fire-closes-tunnel

    Chick_el_box/UK

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  34. I'm Norwegian and I hate this stuff!!!

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  35. Seattle is an outpost of Scandinavia....most stores stock Ski Queen (even the local Safeway). But more surprisingly, they often stock lutefisk too! As a man married to a woman of Norwegian heritage, I've acquired a taste for the geitost and leave then house when the lutefisk comes out.

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  36. I was in norway during autumn 2004, and this is what I had almost everyday for breakfast at the hotel. My spouse revisitied norway few times but he never got chance to find it in store. Its been more than 8 years now, and i wish i could have it again next month :-) Love it!

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  37. I discovered this cheese in 2005. I love it! My husband recently found me some in a local delicatessen. I have to decide what to do with it now!

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  38. I for the first time ate this cheese in 2012 when we visited Bergen. This cheese is divine. The family brought me some when they came to South Africa this year... I love the taste of the brown cheese...









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  39. Where can I find some brown chees in the USA?

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    1. Try this site:
      http://www.norseland.com

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  40. I discovered Brown Cheese when on Kibbutz in Israel and had it again when I was in Norway in 1997. Wish I could find it in South Africa. Love it!

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  41. It's very easy to make, but the yields are small. Buy some milk that's about to expire, and just heat it in a pot. When it separates, strain out the solids and use them later in blintzes. Boil the remaining liquid on an evening when you know you'll be home, and just check on it from time to time until it's a film on the bottom of the pot. Don't stop stirring while it caramelizes and turn brown. Carefully add some butter, then a few splashes of cream (watch for spatters) until it's as thick as you want it. It tastes and spreads like cream cheese.

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  42. Had this the first time at Epcot in the Norway area at the Princess Breakfast. Fell in love with it instantly. It reminded me of a carmel/malt flavor. I can always find it at HEB in Texas.

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