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Nøkkelost (Norwegian: "key cheese"), also seen in Swedish spelling as Nökkelost and sometimes called kuminost (cumin cheese), is a Norwegian cheese flavored with cumin and cloves, not with caraway seeds, as is often mistaken.[1] It is semi-hard, yellow, and made from cow's milk, in the shape of wheels or blocks, with a maturation period of three months.

Nøkkelost cheese is similar to the Dutch cheese, Nagelkaas,[2] which is itself an unprotected name variant of kanterkaas. There are differing theories on the origin of the Norwegian name. The most likely is that it is a false cognate in Norwegian of the Dutch "Nagelkaas",[3] which translates to "nail cheese", owing to the nail-like shape of the cloves. Another theory is that as a factory-made variation of the Dutch Leyden cheese, which has its origins in the 17th century, the Norwegian "nøkkel" (meaning "key") is a reference to Leiden's coat of arms.[4]

There was a version of Nøkkelost manufactured and marketed in the US throughout the 1960s.[5] Kraft Foods first called it "Caraway" then later used "Kuminost Spiced Cheese" on the label.[6] It disappeared in the late 1970s.[citation needed] This cheese is also produced by cheese makers Pleasant Valley Dairy [7] from Ferndale, WA and Three Village Cheese Co.[8] in the Town of Newport, NY.


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