Brunost: The Norwegian Sweet Cheese

Who all remembers the cheese fire in Norway in January of 2013?  Most people have probably forgotten about it.  So, what does this have to do with today’s post?  Well, the cheese in question is called Brunost.  Here in the States most people do not know what it is.  As such, I get asked what it is whenever I tell people about it.  Let us learn about exactly what Brunost is.

Brunost is a Scandinavian brown cheese made primarily in Norway.  Sometimes it is also called mysost.  For those of you who think cheese should only come in white and that funky yellowish-orange colour, let me tell you that it really is not that far off from the funky yellowish-orange colour.  Technically speaking, brown is a shade of orange.  I have seen it called by several other names which are pretty much the name of the cheese in different languages: in Swedish it is called mesost, in Danish it is myseost, in Icelandic it is referred to as mysuostur, the Finns call it meesjuusto.  It also is pretty popular in Germany where it is called Braunkäse.  The translation for the Norwegian and German names is brown cheese.  In Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, and Danish the name translates to whey cheese.  Here is what my local store has for sale. 


That thing next to it is a cheese slicer.  I am constanly surprised by how many people have no idea what it is or that such a thing actually exist.  Yes, people of the world, there is such a thing as a cheese slicer.  I have a Norwegian style cheese slicer and it is great.

So, what exactly is Brunost made out of and how is it made?  Standard Brunost is made from just regular cow cheese, cream, and whey.  There is a variation that is called Geitost or goat cheese.  This is actually made of a mixture of goat and cow cheese.  Here in the States I see this particular form of Brunost marketed by the old name of Gjetost.  To be a real goat cheese only made from goat’s milk it must be called ekte geitost.  Regardless of what kind of milk it is made from, the way this cheese is made is by mixing the milk, cream, and whey together and letting it boil until the water is all evaporated leaving it as a caramely substance.  This can take up to several hours.  The process leaves the cheese with a sweet taste and the brownish colour to it.

Amazingly, for a cheese Brunost is pretty healthy.  It has a higher iron content than most cheeses if it is made in the traditional manner in an iron pot.  It is also high in calcium and B vitamins.  Alas!  There is a downside to this wonderful cheese and the way that it is made.  Since the cheese contains caramelized sugars it burns very hot when it catches fire.  In large enough quantities it will burn for a very long time.  The fire I was talking about at the beginning of this post was in Tysfjord’s Bratli Tunnel.  The lorry was carrying about 27 tons of the cheese.   There was so much of it that it burned for over five days and had the road shut down for days afterwards.  I guess the lesson to be learned from that is that in a pinch you can actually use Brunost as a light and heating source.

Brunost is my favorite sweet cheese and my father loves it.  We had it with supper last night and he kept eating it as it was being sliced.  Oh well.  That is what happens when you grown up in a household where international food is no big deal.  I recommend trying some!  It tastes great with pears.  I hate pears, but the combination of pears and Brunost is actually pretty tasty.  Here is how we eat it.