As a newcomer to Norway many locals will ask you if you’ve had the brunost, aka the brown cheese, yet and what you think of it. So, it’s best to quickly try it and get that out of the way.
I think many Norwegians enjoy offering brunost as a cruel trick, the classic “let’s make the foreigner try our strange food” gag. However, many (myself included) find brunost to be quite tasty! It’s high in sugar and it is like cheese, so for an American that’s pretty much our two main food groups. It’s technically not cheese, more of a by-product of cheese production itself. Most countries would throw it out, but during Norway’s more humble and poorer times they added sugar to provide additional food for the people.
So brunost is considered an important part of cultural identity for Norwegians.
Give it a try, it’s especially good on waffles.
Brunost, or “brown cheese,” is a cherished and uniquely Norwegian dairy product with a history as rich and distinct as its flavor. This iconic food has earned a special place in the hearts and kitchens of Norwegians for more than a century. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of brunost, from its origins to its enduring popularity in Norway.
Origins and Early Development
The story of brunost begins in the rural farms of Norway. In the 1860s, a group of Norwegian dairy farmers and cheese producers started experimenting with the byproducts of cheese production. By slowly heating whey, the liquid that remains after cheese-making, they created a thick, caramel-colored, and sweet cheese that would become brunost.
This new cheese-making technique allowed farmers to make the most of their dairy production, as it utilized the whey that had previously been considered a waste product. In addition to its practicality, brunost gained popularity due to its sweet and slightly tangy taste, which was different from traditional cheese.
The Birth of the ‘Gudbrandsdalsost’
The term “Gudbrandsdalsost” is often used to refer to brunost in Norway. The name originates from the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, where the cheese gained early popularity. Anne Hov, a farmer’s wife from Gudbrandsdalen, is often credited with introducing brunost to a broader audience. She began commercial production in the 1860s, and by the end of the century, her cheese had become a well-known and highly regarded product.
Growth and Commercialization
As the 20th century progressed, the commercial production and distribution of brunost expanded. Numerous creameries across Norway started producing brunost, and the cheese’s popularity grew steadily. By the mid-1900s, brunost had become an essential part of Norwegian cuisine, served at breakfast, as a topping on open-faced sandwiches, and as a key ingredient in various dishes.
Varieties of Brunost
Brunost is not a single cheese but a category of cheeses with varying flavors and textures. The primary types of brunost include:
- Gudbrandsdalsost: The classic brunost is characterized by its sweet and slightly tangy taste. It has a dense, fudge-like texture and is often sliced thinly and eaten with bread.
- Geitost: Made from goat’s milk, geitost has a distinct, tangy flavor and a slightly softer texture than Gudbrandsdalsost. It is known for its brown color and is sometimes mixed with cow’s milk to create a milder version.
- Fløtemysost: This variety of brunost is made with the addition of cream, giving it a creamy texture and a richer, sweeter taste.
Brunost remains an integral part of Norwegian culinary culture. Norwegians of all ages enjoy it, and it’s featured in traditional dishes like “svele” (a type of pancake) and “rømmegrøt” (sour cream porridge). It’s also popular as a topping on waffles, bread, and crackers.
In recent years, brunost has gained international recognition, appealing to cheese lovers around the world who appreciate its unique flavor and history. It is increasingly available in specialty stores and online markets, allowing a broader audience to savor this iconic Norwegian cheese.
Brunost, or brown cheese, is not just a dairy product; it is a symbol of Norway’s resourcefulness and deep connection to its agricultural heritage. From its humble beginnings as a solution to dairy waste to its position as a beloved national food, brunost has come to represent the ingenuity and culinary richness of Norway. Its continued popularity in both Norway and beyond speaks to the enduring appeal of this unique and delicious cheese.
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