*In an attempt to resurrect the past, this is a re-publishing of the last post I made before The Transplanted Baker on Blogspot was lost. It stirred up quite a bit of interest and response, so I’m re-posting it here on the new (and improved!) site. The original post date was May 20th, 2009.
This is the first in a little series I’m doing on Norwegian foods and ingredients.
This week’s feature: Geitost
Although Norway hasn’t made as large of a contribution to international cuisine as, say, Italy or China; and the name Norway has become synonymous with lutefisk, I thought it might be nice to start profiling different Norwegian foods and ingredients to provide readers with a more balanced and honest perception of what the Norwegian culinary traditions are today. I confess to taking a somewhat skeptical stance regarding the Norwegian diet- a Midwestern girl can only take so much boiled cod and potatoes, but I truly believe that Norway has made some fantastic contributions to world cuisine and it deserves a little due credit for making the best of such a harsh Northern spot on the globe.
In the past, I’ve written a bit about how the Norwegian landscape and climate has shaped the diet of the nation- when you live somewhere with such dramatic mountain ranges combined with this long of a coastline, it’s only natural that cattle and corn never made it big. On the contrary, Norwegians are raised on what they can produce on the home turf. Things like cured fish and meats, like artic berries, root vegetables, hearty lamb and sheep, and things like forest mushrooms, nettles, wild salmon and whole grains. Nearing the top of my list of quality Norwegian foods, are the aged dairy products like good salted butter and caramelized goat cheese.
Geitost, also known as gjetost, brunost, mesost, myseost, and brown cheese, is a uber traditional Norwegian cheese made from whey.
Whey? You know whey. It’s what Little Miss Muffet ate on her tuffet right after she finished off her curds- or, the thin liquid that remains after milk has been curdled and strained while making cheese. It’s also what the Italian cheese, ricotta is made out of. Sounds a little less weird now, doesn’t it?
Geitost is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream, and whey until the milk caramelizes and the water evaporates. In the states, geitost comes in one or two varieties, usually under the names Ski Queen and Ekte Geitost. In Norway, however, you can visit even the most backroads grocery store and find a dozen varieties of geitost. It seems as though back in the day, every farmer’s wife came up with her own recipe for geitost- encorporating various different amount of cream, many adding cow’s milk to the goat’s milk, some even adding herbs and spices, to create the signature geitost of the region.
For the first time taster, geitost is....sweet and....”different”. I truly believe that a person is born with either the geitost-loving gene, or the geitost-hating gene. Children adore the stuff (naturally, because it’s sweet!) Me, I’m a lover too. I eat it at least once a day- usually on my breakfast rye bread or flatbread, sometimes on warm waffles, and almost always with coffee or milk. It’s a real treat with an eggy sweet bread like challah or brioche. The trick is to slice it really thin with yet another Norwegian invention, an ostehøvel, cheese slicer. Only first timers and addicts take a knife and slice off a hunk of geitost before eating.
So what else can you do with geitost?
You can add it to a warm sauce such as meatball gravy. You can throw a nub of it into a pan for a great wild game au jus (it’s particularly good with junipers and venison), or try it on a grilled sandwich with sautéed mushrooms.
Or you can make this: a geitost bling.
*inspired by a small cafe in Bergen
2 long, thick slices of a dense, coarse-grained bread (any whole-wheat or rye will work)
6-8 thin slices of geitost
2 teaspoons crème fraiche
2 teaspoons lingonberry or cranberry jam (any tart jam or jelly will do)
1 teaspoon very finely diced red onion
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chive
To assemble your geitost blings: Layout your slices of bread on two plates. Place the geitost over the slices, overlapping a bit. Place a dollop of crème fraiche and a dollop of jam over the geitost. Top with a scattering of the diced red onion and snippets of fresh chive. Enjoy with good coffee, a tall glass of milk, or orange juice.
Up Next in my series on Norwegian foods and ingredients: Midsummer Berries!