12 Famous Norwegian Cheeses
Norway is home to some of Europe’s most unique cheeses, most notably different varieties of “brunost”, a sweet, caramel-flavored cheese.
Traditional cheese production in Norway is closely tied to small dairy farms, where families have perfected their products over generations. In fact, two such small producers have won the world championship cheese contest in the last few years.
Most of the popular cheeses in Norway, however, are made by Tine SA, the country’s largest producer and exporter of dairy products. Tine is a cooperative owned by milk farmers, the same farmers who supply the milk for the cheese.
The company dates back to 1928, and its most notable cheeses are Norvegia and Jarlsberg. Let’s take a closer look at these and other, more distinguished cheeses made on small family run farms throughout the country.
Norvegia is a family favorite from Tine SA and the most sold cheese in Norway. It is semi-hard with a mild and sweet taste, resembling a gouda.
This makes it a favorite for children, and it is often used in sandwiches or on toast. The smooth consistency makes it easy to slice, grate and cut, and it is used in both cold and hot dishes. It is particularly good for melting and is used on pizzas, pies and anything else that goes into the oven.
The original Norvegia cheese is stored for about three months, but there are also two different cured variants. Norvegia Vellagret is aged for at least 9 months, giving it a more distinct flavor. If you want even more flavor, you can get Norvegia Ekstra Vellagret, which is aged for 15 months.
Østavind, or east wind, is a fairly new addition to Tine’s cheese range. It is made from fresh cow’s milk from Helgeland in the northern parts of Norway. When the eastern wind blows over Helgeland, good weather ensues, which is good for both people and cows. The result? A cheese with more character and a richer, more aromatic taste.
Østavind cheese resembles Norvegia but has a sweeter and more complex flavor. It is aged for 5 months, and its texture is porous, smooth, and firm. Østavind is used in sandwiches, for cooking or just as a snack.
Jarlsberg is a mild, swiss-type cheese made from cow’s milk. It has a semi-soft texture, a mild and nutty flavour, and it’s distinguished by its large and irregular holes. The cheese melts very well and is often used on pizza or in fondues. It is also frequently used in sandwiches.
Its history can be traced back to the middle 1850s, and it was named in honor of count Wedel Jarlsberg, who owned land in the area. The process of making Jarlsberg is a trade secret, and the trademark is registered by Tine SA.
Jarlsberg is aged for a minimum of 3 months, and there is also a cured version named Jarlsberg Vellagret, which is aged for 12 months.
Fløtemysost is a mild type of “brunost”, or brown cheese. It is made from a pasteurized mixture of whey and cow’s milk. The mixture is boiled down to caramelize the sugar, giving the cheese a rich brown color and a sweet caramel-like taste. It is often served on toast or waffles, and even used as a flavor enhancer in sauces.
Traditionally, brown cheese is made by boiling whey and adding goat’s milk. Fløtemysost, however, is made purely from cow’s milk. Its origins can be traced all the way back to 1863, when the owner of Solbråsetra Farm in Gudbrandsdalen decided that the goats were too much of a nuance and he didn’t want them. Without goat’s milk, the farmer’s daughter decided to add cream to the whey mixture.
Gudbrandsdalsost is another type of “brunost” with close ties to the Fløtemysost mentioned above. This cheese is made from a mix of cow’s and goat’s milk and has a darker color. The goat’s milk gives it more of a tang, generally making it less favorable and more favored by children.
The recipe for this cheese can also be credited the same farmer’s daughter from Gudbrandsdalen. She eventually got married and her husband didn’t have anything against goats. So, she tried to improve the recipe by adding goat’s milk. It quickly spread to the neighboring farms and was soon known as Gudbrandsdalsost.
Ridderost, literally “knight cheese”, is a semi-hard cheese from the coastal region of Møre and Romsdal in Norway.
It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and is a washed-rind cheese developed by dairy producer Tine SA in the 1960s. During production, it is periodically treated with brine or mold-bearing agents, encouraging the growth of bacteria.
To this day, the milk used to produce Ridderost is only harvested from local municipalities along the coast. The crust is almost orange while the cheese itself is a pale yellow. Ridderost is sold in two variants, Ridder and Ridder Classic. It has quite a distinct taste and odor.
Nøkkelost literally translates as “key cheese”, and is a hard cheese made from cow’s milk. During the process, both cardamom and cumin is added, giving the cheese a very distinct look and flavor.
It has small, round holes and is aged for 8 weeks only. Nøkkelost was first mentioned in a cookbook of 1845, and is believed to have been produced in Norway since the 1860s.
Its exact origin is unknown, but one can safely assume it’s based on the Leyden cheese from the Netherlands. The main difference between Nøkkelost and Leyden cheese is that the latter is seasoned with caraway rather than cardamom.
Snøfrisk translates as “snow fresh” and is a series of soft cream cheeses from Sunnmøre in Norway. The original Snøfrisk cheese was launched for the winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994.
It is now a series of 5 different products; one original and 4 with added flavor. This includes pepper/garlic, ramsons/garlic, dill and chanterelle.
The cheese is made with both goat’s milk (80%) and cow’s milk (20%). The taste is fresh and tart with a characteristic, but mild taste of goat’s milk. Snøfrisk is well suited as a spread on a slice of bread or a bagel, and it is also great in sauces. It is also frequently used by bakers, who combine it with powdered sugar for cake frosting.
9. Selbu Blå
Selbu Blå is a blue cheese made in Selbu in Norway. “Blå” means blue, and it has blue mold both inside and out. The cheese has a soft and creamy texture, and the flavor is rich and aromatic.
It is, however, quite a mild cheese, developed especially for the delicate Norwegian palate.
Selbu Blå is very versatile and often used in salads, dressing, and sauces. It can be enjoyed on its own, but it’s especially well-suited for cheese platters with walnuts and honey. There is also a Selbu Blå Kraftig, which is aged for longer to get an extra full and sharp taste.
Pultost is a traditional Norwegian cheese made from low fat sour milk and caraway seeds. There are two types of pultost; one is spreadable and one is crumbly and porous.
The former has a stronger taste and smell. The creamy and spreadable pultost is made by heating the milk to around 35 degrees celsius, whereas a higher temperature of about 65 degrees creates the drier and crumblier version.
Kraftkar is a blue cheese from a family-run dairy farm in the western parts of Norway. It is made from unskimmed cow’s milk and cream and injected with a mold culture. The name translates as “strong man”, a reference to a legendary farmhand who was said to have superhuman powers.
Kraftkar was awarded World Champion at the World Cheese Awards in 2016, and the small family-run dairy farm has had problems meeting demand ever since. The world’s best cheese is preferably paired with crackers and fruit jams.
Fanaost is made at a dairy farm in Fana outside Bergen in Norway. The farm has been going since the 1600s, and when Ruth and Jørn Hafslund started cheese production here in 2006, they aimed at producing quality products from locally sourced ingredients.
Their cows graze on an old pasture where they have access to more than 10 different types of grass and heather.
In November 2018 Fanaost won the coveted World Cheese Award. The Hafslund couple claim their success is attributed to the combination of good pasture and low production, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Fanaost is a semi-hard gouda cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is aged for 3 months and has a mild and round flavor.
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