Brunost-A Norwegian Cheese Delicacy
COME with me to a simple Norwegian home. The breakfast table is laid with butter, coarse bread, and various other items. But wait a moment! Something is missing. It does not take long before someone asks: Where is the brunost?
Of all the sorts of sandwich fillings, including hundreds of different cheeses, brunost, or brown cheese, is in a class by itself. It is found in most Norwegian homes and represents nearly one fourth of all cheese consumed in this country. Every year, Norwegians eat 12,000 tons of brunost, which means an average of more than 6 pounds [almost 3 kg] per person. At the same time, about 450 tons of brunost are exported to such countries as Australia, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States.
Many foreigners get their first taste of brunost at a Norwegian hotel. This cheese, round-shaped or quadrangular, is nearly always on the breakfast table-invariably with a handy little cutting tool called an ostehøvel. It is used to cut thin slices from the top of the cheese.
But what actually is brunost? To find out, we visited a real seter, or mountain summer pasture farm, where brunost is still made in the traditional way.
Producing Brunost the Traditional Way
When we arrived, the goats had just been milked. We were allowed to join the milkmaid as she transformed the goats milk into tasty cheese.
The goats are milked twice a day, and the milk is poured into a big kettle. There it is heated to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit [30°C.] and rennin, an enzyme that makes milk curdle, is added. The white curd starts separating from the rest of the milk, which is called the whey. Most of the whey is laboriously worked out of the curd, and the curd is gathered in separate wooden tubs to become white Norwegian goat cheese. Since the white cheese is live, it has to ripen for about three weeks before it is ready for use.
What, then, about the brown cheese, or brunost? Well, milk and cream are now added to the pure whey, and this mixture is brought to a boil. It must be stirred constantly. As the mixture boils, much of the moisture evaporates and the whey changes color. After about three hours, it turns into a brown paste. Then, it is taken out of the kettle and the stirring continues while the paste cools. Eventually, it is kneaded and then stuffed into molds. Unlike the white cheese, the brunost does not need ripening. The next day, as soon as the brown cheese is taken out of the mold, it is ready to please every lover of brown Norwegian goat cheese.
While the principles of the process are still the same, this outmoded method of cheese making has long been replaced by a large-scale machine production. The mountain dairy farm is displaced by dairies that use vacuum-concentrating equipment and pressure cookers instead of the old open iron kettles.
A Norwegian Invention
How did brunost originate? In the summer of 1863, the milkmaid Anne Haav, who lived in Gudbrandsdalen Valley, tried an experiment that became a breakthrough. She made cheese from pure cows milk and thought of adding cream to the whey before boiling it down. The result was a tasty brown cheese, with full fat content. Later, people also started using goats milk and a mixture of goats milk and cows milk as a basis for the production. In 1933, at a ripe old age, Anne Haav was given the Norwegian kings special medal of merit for her invention.
Today, there are four major types of brunost: Ekte Geitost, real goat cheese, is made of pure goats milk. Gudbrandsdalsost, the most common, is named after the valley and contains 10 to 12 percent goats milk and the rest cows milk. Fløtemysost, cream whey cheese, is made of pure cows milk. Prim, a soft, brown whey cheese, is made of cows milk, but sugar is added. It is boiled down less than the other types. Fat content, firmness, and color-how light or dark the cheese is to be-depend on the ratio of whey, cream, and milk and on the boiling time. What makes the brunost so special is actually that it is made from the whey, not from the casein, of the milk. Thus, it contains much milk sugar, which gives it a sweet, caramellike taste.
For thousands of Norwegians, brunost is not just a delicacy but a necessary part of their daily diet.
Making Your Own Brunost
Making tasty brunost is an art that requires much experience. The details in the manufacturing of the various types of brunost are, of course, trade secrets. But perhaps you want to do some experimenting and make your own brunost? This recipe, with a total of two gallons [7 L] of milk and cream as a basis, will give about one and a half pounds [0.7 kg] of brunost and one pound [0.5 kg] of white cheese as a by-product.
1. Heat five quarts of milk to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit [30°C.], add rennin, and wait for about half an hour. Now the milk will start coagulating.
2. Cut the separating curd into cubes, and stir cautiously. This is to release the whey from the curd. It might be an advantage to heat the milk further.
3. Take away the curd by straining the whey. The curd might be used as cottage cheese or pressed and molded into white cheese.
4. The whey mixture that is boiled down usually consists of about two thirds whey and one third milk and cream. That means that you now have to add some two quarts of cream and/or milk. Use one pint [4-5 dl] of cream to get an ordinary cheese with full fat content. A smaller proportion of cream will give a leaner cheese.
5. Let the mixture boil steadily while you keep stirring. It takes several hours before the whey is sufficiently boiled down. Then it will be quite firm. A measure of this might be that you can see the bottom of the kettle when stirring. The more the whey is boiled, the firmer and darker the cheese will become.
6. Take the brown paste out of the kettle, and stir it thoroughly while it cools. This is important, to avoid a grainy cheese.
7. When nearly cold, the paste is so firm that it can be kneaded and stuffed into a mold. Let it stand overnight.
As an accompaniment, the brunost tastes best in thin slices and is preferred on fresh bread or waffles.
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN NORWAY
Had an idea and extra milk the other day and figured if it didn't turn out, the barn cats would benefit from it. I made a basic vinegar cheese (1 gal milk, heat to boiling, add 1/4 cup vinegar and gently stir until curdled.) After I had curd formed, while it was still plenty hot I added a small package of lime Jell-O and dissolved it in the cheese, then added a small can of crushed, drained, pineapple, stirred and poured into a cheesecloth lined colander. Hung for about 4 hours. It tastes great cut in small cubes and thrown on top of a salad. You need a vinaigrette type dressing or the traditional dressings (thousand island, etc) will overpower the delicate taste of the cheese. Should work with any type of Jell-O. Blue raspberry would make a startling effect!
Suzy Hassler / Sutton NE
Neufchatel Cheese Recipe
1/2 Gallon Fresh Goat Milk
2 oz. Mesophilic Starter Culture
1/4 tab Rennet
.Mix 1/2 gallon fresh whole milk with 2 oz of mesophilic starter.
.Mix 1/4 tab Rennet into two tablespoons of COOL water. Mix this into the milk thoroughly using a whisk and stirring for at least 5 minutes.
.Cover and set aside to ripen for about 15-20 hours at room temp (70 F / 21 C).
The milk should be a firm curd within 24 hours, however the full 15-20 hours is needed to develop the correct flavor.
.. After 15-20 hours, gently ladle the curds into a colander lined with a FINE cheese cloth. Allow the curds to drain for awhile then tie the four corners of the cloth together. Hang it to drain 8-12 hours. After the curds have drained, place the curds into a small bowl. Mix by hand until pasty. Add salt, herbs, etc. to taste. Place the cheese into a sealable container into a refrigerator. The cheese will firm up a little once under refrigeration. . ..
1 Gallon Fresh Whole Goat Milk
1/4 Tablet Rennet
5 oz. Thermophilic Starter Culture..
Warm the milk to 90 F / 32 C.
. Add thermophilic starter and allow the mixture to ripen for 15 minutes Dissolve 1/4 tab rennet into 3-4 table spoons COOL water. Hot water will DESTROY the rennet enzymes. Slowly pour the rennet into the milk stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir for at least 5 minutes.
Allow the milk to set for 45-90 minutes until a firm curd is set and a clean break can be obtained when the curd is cut. With a long knife, cut the curds into 1/4 inch cubes. Allow the curds to sit for 10 minutes to firm up.
Slowly raise the temperature of the milk to 115 F (46 C). It should take as long as 45 minutes to reach this temperature. During this time, gently stir the curds every few minutes so they don't mat together. Keep the curds at this temperature for another 30 - 45 minutes. Drain the whey by pouring through a cheesecloth lined colander.
Carefully place the drained curds into your cheesecloth lined mold. Press the cheese at about 10 lbs. (4.5 kg) for 30 minutes. Remove the cheese from the press and flip it. Press the cheese at about 25 lbs. (11.4 kg) for 3 hours. Then press the cheese at about 40 lbs. (18 kg) for 12 hours. Remove the cheese from the press, careful it is still very soft.
.Lightly pierce the surface of the cheese with a fork, so that the entire cheese is covered in small shallow holes spaced about 1/2 inch apart. Float the cheese in a COLD brine solution** for 12 hours. Be certain to flip the cheese over at least three times to ensure even rind development. Pat dry the cheese, you will notice the outer surface has begun to harden.
Place the cheese in your refrigerator to age for at least five months (longer for stronger flavor). You will need to flip the cheese over every day for the first two weeks and then at least once weekly or it will dry unevenly. Place an overturned bowl on top of the cheese after two days. Do not wrap it in plastic or it will not dry properly Inspect daily for mold. Should mold develop on the cheese surface, simply remove it using a paper towel dipped in white vinegar. The surface may be rubbed with olive oil after three months if so desired. Do not wax this cheese.
** BRINE SOLUTION
Dissolve 1.5 cups of salt into one quart warm water. Cool the brine in your freezer, some salt will precipitate out. To use the solution, simply place it in a bowl and place your cheese into it. After you are done with the brine, you can store it in a container in your freezer. With each new cheese, you will need to add additional salt so that the solution is saturated. The solution is saturated with salt when no additional salt can be dissolved no matter how long you stir.
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