Since August we’ve had a happy addition to our family. A tall teenaged Norwegian one, a hit at the American high school he’s attending this year. He arrived bearing brunost, a unique specialty cheese that’s well-loved in Norway.
Why brunost? My youngest son discovered the joys of brunost when he went to a summer language camp near Oslo last year. Open-faced sandwiches were big there, an option at almost every meal. My son chose a brunost and jam sandwich for breakfast every morning and raved about it on his return.
So when our host-son-to-be Skyped us from Oslo asking what items he should bring, I jokingly mentioned that he could bring along some brunost. He said that actually he could do that, and arrived with not only brunost but a cute metal moose-shaped cheese slicer. The slicer is essential, since brunost is so soft and sticky that you can’t really slice it with a knife. And moose are abundant in Norway– our host son gets them in his backyard on the outskirts of Oslo.
Brunost begins with whey simmered in a pot for hours until it turns golden brown and develops a deep caramel goodness much like dulce de leche. Frequently, cream from cow’s milk is then added. Between the caramelized milk sugar and the cream, this is to regular cheese as Nutella is to hazelnut butter.
It’s very soft, almost spreadable. There’s a similar product that is spreadable called pim. Cheese is made from the curd, not the whey, of milk. Brunost and Italian ricotta are the exceptions, both made from whey, and neither is technically a cheese at all.
We had our brunost on bread, but it’s often served on a cracker. You may wonder if it actually goes with the jam it’s shown with in the photo. Yes, emphatically so. The brunost has a softness and flavor that’s a little reminiscent of peanut butter, and we all know how well that goes with jam. Strawberry jam and brunost is a favored combination.
Brunost comes in many varieties, at least twenty according to our host son, and is made from a mixture of goat’s milk and cow’s milk. Some, like the cheese our host son brought, are mostly made from cow’s milk with just a touch of goat’s milk. Others have more goat’s milk and a stronger flavor. Most are made by TINE, the big, government-owned dairy monopoly of Norway.
The cheese our host son brought was Gudbrandsdalsost, named after the big beautiful valley in Norway where it was first produced. It’s rich, mild, creamy, and sweet with a full caramel flavor. From the taste I wouldn’t have known that it has any goat milk in it at all.
In the US, Amazon carries several kinds of brunost including Ski Queen Gjetost, which is Gudbrandsdalsost made by TINE and packaged for the international market. Whole Foods also carries Ski Queen. Scandinavian Specialties in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle has several varieties of brunost including Gudbrandsdalsost and they ship. I’ll be sorely tempted to pick up another block of it next time I’m in the neighborhood.