Country of Origin: Norway
Age: no aging process
Those crazy Norse people! They’re not very well-known by us Americans for their stellar cheeses. One Scandinavian customer matter-of-factly declared, “It’s because they just keep it for themselves.” Another customer had requested Geitost, so this week, we ordered some. I’d never had it before, so I was curious to try it. Honestly, it looks like no cheese I have ever seen, and the processed-looking shape and plastic wrapping made me a little skeptical of how good it would taste. Well, as it turns out, a rind, or lack thereof, isn’t always an indicator of quality!
After doing some research, I learned that this is a cheese of many names! It’s called geitost, or gjetost in the U.S, Brunost in Norway, Mesost in Swedish, Mysuostur in Icelandic, or Myseost in Danish. It is made from the whey of the cheese, as opposed to the curds, and thus through some magical process turns into something that closer resembles a caramel candy than a cheese. Actually, it’s not too magical. Really, whey, cream, and milk are just simmered until the water evaporates, and the sugar in the milk caramelizes. The result is a dense block of caramel-colored cheese. There is no aging process involved, so there is no rind. Apparently, it’s Norway’s national cheese.
If you can’t tell from my previous description, the appearance of a geitost cheese is just like a caramel candy, only larger. The color is that of a caramel, although it is quite dense and opaque, unlike a true caramel. If a block of this cheese fell on your foot, it would at least leave a serious bruise. If you were to smack someone on the head with it, you might even draw blood. The same is true for other cheeses, of course, but the geitost comes to us in blocks big enough to wield in your fist like a real brick.
The cheese’s aroma is much like you would expect–caramel. I really could not sense much of the typical cheese aromas—no grassy tang, no milkiness, no barnyard. Just caramel. Intriguing. I guess, then there’s no surprise that the cheese tasted like caramel also. It was a touch sweet, with a lingering aftertaste.
As for the texture, geitost is like a piece of packed clay, slightly grainy, with no eyes.
The things I’ve read on the cheese say that traditionally it is eaten at breakfast or as a snack, sliced thinly on some bread, or added to game sauces (mm….reindeer meat….).
I was whisked off to a Scandinavian wonderland of pleasure upon my first bite of Geitost. I’ve always loved caramel, so it was great fun to find such a caramel-y cheese! Some of the customers who tried it today weren’t so impressed, though. “It doesn’t taste or look like cheese.” Of course not! That’s what makes it so impressive! Oh well, I did warn them that it was unusual. Maybe I didn’t convey enough how unusual it is.
Actually, all day today, I felt a little more adventurous in offering cheese tastings to people. I had people taste the Valdeon, this Geitost, and the aged mahon. None of them are really big sellers, and they each have very distinct flavors. I just felt they needed some more exposure to the public! The results were a little hit-and-miss. Sometimes, though, I think it’s good when people taste new cheeses, even if they end up not liking them. After all, the possibility of finding a new favorite is lurking in every cheese.