Brunost Cheese – A Norwegian Delicacy

Brunost Cheese (0018) by Meeta K. Wolff  

I do not visit the huge hypermarket at our shopping mall very often. Most of the produce comes either from my organic store or my CSS box, while cheese, meat and other items on my grocery list are picked up at a smaller grocery store. However, recently I have been making regular trips to the hypermarket to get my hands on a very fine delicacy I first discovered on my travels to Norway last summer. 

I chanced upon it quite by fluke and very unexpectedly here in Weimar. In need of a few specific items for our Christmas dinner, I made my way to the hypermarket. It was not packed as it usually is so I decided to take my time and ambled over to the cheesemonger. Usually they have a nice variety of cheese from all over the world and Tom and I always like to enjoy a selection of cheese with crackers as an after dinner treat on the weekend with a bottle of Tom’s latest wine discovery.

My heart skipped a beat as I looked into the vitrine. It certainly stood out from the rest of the cheeses on display, with its deep caramel color. There was no doubt in my head, it had to be the delightful brown cheese from Norway.

Feeling extremely elated at having found Brunost in Weimar, I dropped all my shopping bags on the kitchen floor. Unwrapping the waxed paper carefully as if the contents were treasured jewels, I sliced a piece from the small block and savored the melting moment. 

Brunost, which literally means brown cheese, is a Norwegian phenomenon and I am not exaggerating the truth one bit. The cheese is very much an icon in Norway and belongs to the country's rich heritage. And finally, it seems that the rest of the world has discovered a taste for this slightly unusual brown cheese.

Brunost Cheese (0028) by Meeta K. Wolff

What is Brunost exactly?
Although labeled a “cheese”, technically speaking it is not a cheese. While cheesemaking all over the world consists of separating the curds from the whey, and making some type of cheese from the curds, in Norway the whey is used to make Brunost. Traditionally, the whey of goat milk was used to make Brunost, however nowadays you will find a mixture of goat or cow milk and cream added to the whey.

The mixture is simmered and stirred for hours and as water begins to evaporate, the milk mixture thickens. The long hours of simmering and stirring also causes one of the most vital processes to take place, which is responsible for the distinct flavor and color of Brunost. The lactose sugars in the milk caramelize and turn the whey slightly brown. Eventually the mixture becomes a light brown paste, which is then removed from the heat and stirred continuously until the paste has cooled. Finally it is poured into rectangular or round moulds, allowed to set and then unmolded. Brunost needs absolutely no aging and is ready to be enjoyed as soon as it is unmolded.

A bit of Brunost History
For centuries, Norwegian farmers have made a variety of cheeses from cow and goat milk, using the leftover whey to produce several other food products. It is said that the initial creation of Brunost cheese is attributed to an Anne Haav, who worked in a creamery in the Gudbrands valley in Norway. In the summer of 1863, she experimented by adding cream to cow milk whey before bringing the whey to a boil. She ended up with a brown cheese, which was the most basic type of brown cheese and simply called Mysost, “whey cheese”. As this product won in popularity, farmers used the same method using goat milk instead, as rearing goats was easier in the mountainous regions of Norway.

How does Brunost taste?
The distinct flavor of Brunost comes from the caramelizing of the lactose sugars. If you are expecting the typical cheese-y flavor you’re in for a surprise. It has a wonderful sweet, slightly salty note to it, with an exceptional hint of caramel. The goat milk adds another incomparable taste level, which might take a little getting used to. Think of salted dulche de leche fudge made with goat milk. True, to some this idea might distort the entire conception of cheese, but remember, technically we’re not talking about cheese.

Although the texture of Brunost is cheese-like, it is much stickier than most other real cheeses due to the high sugar content. That is probably why using a cheese plane is always recommended when slicing Brunost, as one would only get large chunky slices if a knife was used (this mind you does not bother me in the slightest).

Brunost offers a complex layers of flavors and provides a fantastic basis for several experiments. In Norway it is enjoyed with the famous sour cream waffles called Rømmevafler, or simply on a slice of buttered bread. A magnificent tip from Nordic Nibbler was to add slices of Brunost to the gravy for my roast beef - explosive! My favorite way is to enjoy it on simple spelt and sesame crackers with a few crunchy grapes.

There are many variations of Brunost, which is the generic name for the different of types of products available on the market today. Some of the main types are:

Ekte Geitost: is made with the whey, milk and cream of goats. It has the most distinct and pronounced flavor compared to other Brunost varieties. Ekte Geitost literally means Real Goat Cheese.
Fløtemysost: is milder in taste than both the Ekte Geitost and Gudbrandsdalsost.  It is made from the whey, milk and cream of cows.
Gudbrandsdalsost: is named after the valley in Norway where it was first produced. It mainly uses whey, milk and cream from cows, with the addition of goat milk.

In North America one can find Brunost under the name Gjetost and I am told is quite readily available in the supermarkets. In the UK Ski Queen is the well known brand selling the cheese, whereas in Germany you will find the brands, Norgold and Gudbrandsdalen available at the larger supermarkets.

I would not be inquisitive me if I did not take this cheese and use it for a special experiment. The results of the experiment will be revealed soon!

Next week I’ll take you on a lovely virtual trip through Vienna with me. Hope you’ll join me then. Have a great week and weekend.


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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61 comments:

  1. Such an interesting post. For a foodie, nay cheesie, like me a new discovery is always exciting. I'm going to seek this out - not sure where mind you. Maybe a visit to the fjords is in order...

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  2. Wow, I've always wanted to taste that cheese! It must has such an interesting flavor. Perfect with crackers, I'm sure.

    I love that series of pictures!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. You put a smile on my face :D I've always thought that only Norwegians would like this cheese! (my husband is not very keen) I normally use it on bread and on swedish crisp bread, "knekkebrød". Sometimes I use jam on top, preferably jam from plums or oranges. I always use it in sauce served with game, such as deer (also add lingonberry jam and berries from juniper). My son loves this cheese, but he likes prim or primost best. It is soft, and tastes similar to brunost.

    And now I know what to put in my suitcase when we leave ;)

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  4. Brunost cheese sounds interesting..

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  5. I got to know Brunost last year on a short trip to Oslo. As a always curious foodie I asked our friends who temporarely lived in Norway, what food specialities I've got to try. Brunost was one of them. Whereas for other Norwegian Specialities you'd have to visit Fenaknoken (a weird Norwegian food store in the heart of Oslo), Brunost is found in every supermarket.

    I'm excited to hear, that it is available in some German supermarkets as well. I've never (yet) seen it. Will keep my eyes open now...

    Thanks for the thorough characterization!

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  6. Brunost sauce is also great with game... :-) http://www.elusivemoose.eu/2010/11/venison-brown-cheese-sauce/

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  7. Love the images - and I really ike to hear that there is other poeple liking the famous norwegian goat cheese. I'm Norwegian, living in Denmark and married to a Dane who love all cheese just not brown cheese. I love it though, on knackerbread, oatmeal crackers or on waffles.

    PS! Agree with Moose (above) that it works well with game - good in a sauce!

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  8. Gorgeous cheese meeta...and gr8 pics...gotto try this one soon!

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  9. Wonderful post Meeta and thank you for the mention :-) I'm so glad you managed to find some brown cheese in Weimar, and I can't wait to see the results of your recent brunost experiment!

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  10. What an unusual cheese. I like the idea of a caramelized milk cheese, I'll have to see if I can find it near me since you said it was available in North America under the name Gjetost.

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  11. I love Brunost, but in Poland, Silesia it is almost impossible to buy it. I'm quite proud that it was invented by a woman! :) Very interesting post!

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  12. Meeta,

    This is such an interesting post! I know so little about cheeses from this area... and had know idea what Brunost was. Now I do!

    And of course, the pictures are lovely.

    Mwah!

    -B

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  13. You got me with the "salted dulce de leche taste". I can imagine the caramelized flavor of this cheese and can't wait to try it. Its brown color is also very unique.

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  14. I haven't visited your blog in a while (sorry!! Have been SO BUSY!) but I'm glad to be back :) that brunost totally looks like a piece of caramel fudge!! I'd love to try some, it sounds divine :)

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  15. I have never heard of this caramelised "cheese", and it seems it's my loss. How wonderful! I hope I can find it here in Melbourne.

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  16. Here we too love cheese witha glass of vine on weekend, I have never tasted this particular cheese if i find in my local cheese shop i am going to buy it.

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  17. I had my first Brunost 2 years ago while on a vacation in Copenhagen, needless to say, it was love at first bite.

    I look forward to the day when it reaches Dubai and becomes a staple at the local supermarket.

    Funnily enough, I was craving for this last week and look here it is teasing me yet again! =)

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  18. Brunost sounds so interesting! There are SO many varieties of cheese to choose from and a post like this really helps someone like me who gets all confused :)

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  19. What a great series of pictures Meeta. I don't think I've ever heard of this cheese before. Love the color. Looks like a block of caramel!

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  20. Thanks for the information Meeta. I am not much of a cheese enthusiast :( and really have never heard of this. The color is unique and your photographs make it all the more delicious!

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  21. We can buy this in Sweden without problem, but I am not a very big fan of this cheese. I can eat several slices a few times a year, not more. The taste is very rich.

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  22. WOW! I love the sound of this cheese. have to go check my cheese store and see if they carry it, although I suspect not... fingers crossed!

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  23. first time I've heard of brunost cheese...gosh, I want to taste it..

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  24. Six years ago, after graduating college in the US, I took a trip to Norway. It was then that I fell in love with this cheese. After I returned, I moved to Tennessee and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see Brunost again. But I did! About three years ago I was shopping at the local grocery and I looked down and it was like a light from above shone down on that small red package and angels started singing! (maybe a slight exageration) Anyway, I haven't found many people that love it as much as I do, but I don't really care! More for me!

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  25. Lookks gr8...Havent tasted it...Lovely pics...:)

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  26. It's wonderful to have found you, Meeta! The only whey cheese I knew about before I read your truly informative post, was ricotta. What a different sort of cheese this is! I'm tempted to try making it myself actually...

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  27. I am loving all your feedback on this post! Great to hear your experiences with Brunost. I admit in gravy Brunost adds an incredible flavor. keep your thoughts coming.

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  28. i am a researcher at the northernmost university in the world -- in other words, i live and work in Tromsø, Norway, high up in the Arctic Circle.

    Brunost is very popular here and consumed regularly with waffles and jam. The Norwegians seem to love it -- I'm not Norwegian, and though I love cheese, I haven't yet acquired a taste for this. I think, all said and done, it's very much an acquired taste.

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  29. Hi Meeta-Your photos are both gorgeous and delicious! I'm excited to look for Brunost at specialty cheese shops in NYC.

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  30. Wow, Meeta, this is great and intriguing! We're a house full of cheese lovers and I'd love to taste it. Maybe in Weimar with a bit of fruit, crackers and vino? Looks perfect!

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  31. Thanks for the introduction to this cheese. Sounds delicious.

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  32. Fascinating post... I wasn't familiar with Brunost, now I'm going to ask my local cheese monger if they have any. The first part of the process of creation is similar to a ricotta; however, I hadn't heard of the caramelization process. Must try, my mouth is watering.

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  33. What an interesting find. I'm a huge lover of cheese and crackers so even though it's technically not "cheese" I'm going to check to see if our local monger carries it.

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  34. I love this cheese! I used to get it all the time at this wine/cheese bar/restaurant in my old hometown. Now that I've moved to London, I have nearly forgotten about it! Cannot wait to get out and get this from the grocery store.

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  35. This brings back so many memories for me! I lived in Norway for a summer, and ate so many things that I had no idea what it was (I don't speak Norwegian, my host family didn't speak English). I can remember exactly where I was when I tried this - such a distinct taste! Love your blog - will definitely be following !

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  36. I'm belonging to the people who don't like brunost so much. I prefer the fløtemysost because it tastes milder but unfortunately you don't get it here - I've seen the Gudsbrandsdalsost at the cheesemonger at Karstadt too.
    When spending holidays in Norway I always suddenly get cravings to eat it - especially with jam or plum butter or with warm waffles. I always wondered how it would taste used in cheesecake - I hope that will be your experiment because I'm looking for a recipe ;)

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  37. I actually gasped out loud when I saw this post! I adoooore Brunost but haven't thought about it for ages. I just might be haunting my nearest hypermarket soon as well!

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  38. I've been a big fan of this cheese ever since college when a roommate would bring big chunks of it over from Norway. I have a question. I've seen some packages listing salt as an ingredient and some not, and wondered if the traditional method did not add salt, perhaps the natural salts in the milk were enough. Do you happen to know? Thanks.

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  39. Hi, by chance do you know of a recipe for a dish my aunt and grandmother who were norwegian made. They always called it sinkers. It was potatoes and ham and onion i think mixed together and shaped into a log and they would slice them and fix them as a side.

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  40. Fascinating... I've never heard of this and I really want to try it now. I will keep an eye out for it next time I go somewhere swanky like Selfridges or Wholefoods to see if they do it.

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  41. This is such an interesting post!!!!!
    Awesome cheese meeta...and its really so beautiful pics...wanna try this one soon!

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  42. So thrilled to discover a new cheese! I am now eager to try it; I know a store here that specializes in Norwegian products and I think I will go there to get me some! Thanks Meeta.

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  43. Oh Meeta you are bringing back fond memories of my childhood: brunost with lefsa, sandwiches and thin pancakes! We only had it to savour when someone brought back a few blocks of cheese from our Norwegian relatives in Oslo. I am now a vegan but if no one was looking and there was brunost in site I bet I would sneak a bite! I hope you are well and glad you are sharing this treasured cheese!

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  44. Your food photos are amazing! I’ve been lurking on your blog for awhile and finally thought I’d say something…. your photography is excellent.

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  45. Ya I agree with you... Basically means 'brown cheese'.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.

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  46. How exciting! This is the first blog post I have seen on the famous Norwegian brown cheese. Absolutely beautiful photographs!

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  47. It is so nice to see a post about this cheese! I'm from Norway, and this is, like you say, a "trademark" of our country.

    Everyone eats this, it's one of those things you grow up with and when you get old and find out that the rest of the world haven't even heard about it you ask yourself how it's possible :)

    I eat it on christmas bread, on knekkebrød (wasa crisp bread) and on waffles.

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  48. Like your post...Thanks for sharing it...

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  49. For foodies in the southeast, brunost is available at Publix (along with another Norwegian favorite - Jarlsberg cheese), Harry's Farmer's Market and Whole Foods.
    To answer Merlin - what you are describing sounds like a local variation of potetballe (potato ball) which is a common Sunday dish in Norway.

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  50. many thanks for the interesting article. i found this cheese in the UK, Suffolk market stall, selling very very cheeply, so i got a packet of this cheese..
    certainly very interesting cheese, and me being a foodie but also a serious cheese person, the sweet taste of it was quite a strange to begin with. from the other hand it does have a very interesting and unique taste.
    my problem at the moment is where am i going to get the next piece??
    Koby

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  51. I never tried burnost till now..
    I have visited Norway two times and liked the Serve Over Counter
    of the restaurants beautifully managed,,
    BUt I never tried this...I tried Norwegian Rhubarb Pudding and I love the taste of it...

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  52. Thanks for such fantastic explanation for burnost. First time heard and looks really interesting now.

    keep Blogging

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  53. Hi Meeta, Thanks for such wonderful blog. Most of your recipes are very innovative, I will definitely try it in my home. I am a SEO Professional from last 5 years and got a very busy life & have low interest in kitchen. MY mom is a very good in cooking and now i am going to share this recipe of cheese with her. I am sure she loved it ....

    Will be back soon..

    Regards
    ________________

    Graphology

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  54. Recently was introduced to the joys of brunost through our Norwegian exchange student who brought some Gudbransdalsost for us. Quite a special treat! I've now realized that it's available at the Scandivanian Specialities store here in Seattle (which ships). Other varieties of brunost are available through Amazon, and Whole Foods has the pure goat cheese (Ski Queen). Hope that helps US folks who are looking for it!

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  55. I haven't had brunost since I last went back home for a visit. It sucks that I can't find it in local supermarkets. I have to travel to soho and it's bloody £7.00 for 250g of brunost, WHAT? Your photos are literally teasing me, it's so frustrating! I'm seriously going on a hunt for some brunost right away.

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  56. Hello Meeta,

    I am so happy to find someone who also love brunost like I do. I lived in Norway last two years and fell in love with this wonderful cheese. Back to Germany again, I just started my own food & photography blog. And guess, what kind of recipe I just posted two days ago? Brown Cheese Ice Cream! It is soooo yummy. Maybe you would like to have a try too? ;-)

    PS: Sorry for posting twice the same comment. I made a mistake at the first time and commented in a wrong category ("About"). I also enjoy reading your self-introduce very much! :-)

    Cheers,
    Qin

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  57. Norwegian waffles with butter and brunost, it's classic!!!!! Very popular in Norway

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  58. Thank you for this wonderful little write up. I usually have it with waffles at the local Norwegian club meet here in Brisbane, Australia. Bought some today and plan to have some as a gravy with organic beef meatballs and hasselback potatoes.

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  59. Never heard of this "cheese" up until last week, when I bought it at a cheese boutique here in Tel Aviv. I'm glad to have found this post, though it will be great if you could also provide some recipes which involves this wonder.
    It is YUMMY! Buttery, Caramel, sweet & salty flavours.

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    1. Glad you find it and interesting to see that the cheese has made it as far as Tel Aviv. I have a couple of recipes here on the blog that includes this cheese:
      - Rømmevafler: Norwegian Sour Cream Waffles with Brunost and Cloudberry Cream
      - Panna Cotta - Brunost Cheese with Sticky Toffee Pears

      The panna cotta was simply divine!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

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Meeta