Goat cheese, brown cheese, gjetost, geitost, brunost, mysost…”a well liked child goes by many names”, as we say in Norwegian.
Ask most Norwegians how it’s made and they’ll say “I have no idea how to make it, but I love to eat it!”. Same goes for me. I’ve been eating brunost (brown cheese..it’s what I call it) for as long as I can remember.
Brunost (brown cheese) to the left – Gjeitost (Goat cheese to the right)
What is a brown cheese?
First to clarify, why do I and many call it brown cheese, and not goat cheese/gjetost? The answers are simple: because there is not always just goat milk in it, sometimes cow milk is used, and also “goat cheese” is a pretty wide term. However, when we talk about a Norwegian goat cheese (gjetost), we usually refer to the kind that is made of 100% whey from goat milk. Read more about how the cheese is made below…
With a big craft made brown cheese
How is brown cheese or gjetost made?
As stated above, brown cheese is per definition not a cheese. A real cheese is made from the milk product you are left with after the whey is separated out. The brown cheese is made from the whey, a waste product when you make (white)cheese. So what is a brown cheese then? I’ll get to that now.
The traditional way to make brown cheese was by using 100% goat milk. Goat milk gives it a much stronger flavor, more intense and more rich than cows milk. Some (like me) would say it makes it taste better. Cows milk is cheaper and more plentiful though, so to make a cheaper cheese and larger quantities it makes sense to use whey from cows milk. A lot of people also prefer a milder brown cheese, for instance what is also called mysost (whey cheese). This one often consists of 100% cows milk, and has a lighter brown color and a sometimes sweeter and milder flavor.
What does brown cheese taste like?
Many foreigners that have not had it before, naturally will expect a cheese flavor, but will be surprised, sometimes pleasantly sometimes not, that it does not taste like a cheese. It has more of a sweet flavor, due to the milk sugar in the whey being caramelized. Almost half of the dry part of a brown cheese is milk sugar. Yes, it’s a calorie bomb.
Norwegian Waffle with brown cheese
How to eat brown cheese?
The most common way is on top of a slice of bread (toasted bread can work very well). The second most common is on a Norwegian waffle, usually with a thin layer of butter under. Kids especially like to combine it with different types of jam, and it works excellent as topping on/in a pancake/crepe combined with blueberry jam. A third way is to add it to a stew or a gravy. The cheese will give it a richer flavor, and add a subtle hint of sweetness that many seem to appreciate. Also, you can just slice yourself some pieces and nibble on it.
Buying brown cheese
Can one get this cheese outside of Norway? Being a very specific food for the Norwegian cuisine, it can be a challenge to find it in other countries. Your best bet would be in Sweden and Denmark. But it is also sold in various stores in North America, usually through the Ski Queen type, which is produced by the Norwegian company Tine. You can find the brown cheese on Amazon:Link: Find brown cheese on Amazon
If you are curious to know more about this cheese, check out the article how to make brown cheese , where I explain the process and visit a Norwegian brown cheese maker.
For further reading I recommend an article from the NY Times called “An Ode to Norwegian Brown Cheese”.
Good luck finding brown cheese in your part of the world!