|Alternative names||Mysost, Fløtemysost, Geitost, Gjetost|
|Place of origin||Norway|
|Region or state||Scandinavia|
|Serving temperature||As sandwich, crispbread or biscuit topping, or in sauces.|
|Main ingredients||Whey, milk and/or cream and whey|
|Variations||Mysost, fløtemysost, geitost, prim|
|Cookbook: Brunost Media: Brunost|
Brunost ("brown cheese") is a common, Norwegian name for mysost ("whey cheese" Danish: myseost, Swedish: mesost, Finnish: meesjuusto, Icelandic: mysuostur), a family of cheese-related foods made with whey, milk and/or cream. It is often used to just refer to the Gudbrandsdalsost ("Gudbrandsdal Cheese") type, which is the most popular variety. Brunost is primarily produced and consumed in Norway. It is regarded as one of the country's most iconic foodstuffs, and is considered an important part of Norwegian gastronomical and cultural identity and heritage.
Boiling down whey to create a soft, brown spread (such as the Norwegian prim and Swedish messmör) probably has been common in the Nordic countries since time immemorial. However, the creation of the modern, firm, fatty brunost is commonly attributed to the milkmaid Anne Hov from Gudbrandsdalen. In the second part of the 1800s Gudbrandsdalen, a rural part of Norway, was suffering economically due to falling profits from grain and butter sales. While working at the Valseter mountain farm near Gålå in 1863 Anne Hov (sometimes named Anne Haav) came up with the idea of adding cream to the whey when boiling, and to boil it down in an iron pot until the fluid content was reduced to less than 80%, creating a firmer, fattier, more cheese-like product. She originally called it Feitost ("Fat Cheese"). The name later changed into Fløtemysost ("Cream Whey Cheese"), and this variety is currently the second most popular type. The product immediately caught on, and was soon commonly produced and consumed in the area. When Anne Hov married and moved to Rusthågå farm in Sør-Fron, she started larger-scale production and invented a variety where she added goat's milk to the mix for a more pronounced taste. The local trader Ole Kongsli liked it so much he thought there might be a market for the product in the capital, Oslo. He started exporting it to his business contacts in Oslo under the name Gudbrandsdalsost ("Gudbrandsdal Cheese"), and it became so successful that it contributed significantly to the economy of the region, thus helping Gudbrandsdalen out of recession.
In 1933, aged 87, Anne Hov received the King's Medal of Merit for her contributions to Norwegian cuisine and economy.
In modern times, the world's largest producer of brunost is the Norwegian dairy co-operative Tine, who market at total of 13 varieties, as well as three types of prim and three types of pultost. The second-largest is Norwegian dairy company Synnøve Finden, who market two varieties of brunost, as well as two varieties of prim. There are also a number of smaller, artisan producers - mainly in Norway and in the US.
Mysost are a family of cheese-related foods made with whey and milk and/or cream. Because the main ingredient, whey, is a by-product of the cheese making process, brunost is not technically cheese, and it does not taste like cheese. However, it is produced by cheese makers, and is sold, handled and consumed in the same way as cheese. Therefore it is generally regarded as a cheese. The texture is firm, but slightly softer than e.g. Gouda cheese, and lends itself well to cutting and shaping. It does not crumble like hard cheeses. The taste is sweet, and best described as caramel-like, but with a tang that is more noticeable in the variants that contain goat's milk. The variant Ekte Geitost ("True Goat's Cheese") only contains whey and goat's milk, and has an intense, Chèvre-like taste that cuts the sweetness.
Brunost is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream, and whey carefully for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugars into caramel, which gives the cheese its characteristic brown colour and sweetness. It is ready for consumption as soon as it is packed and refrigerated. Low-fat varieties are made by increasing the proportion of whey to milk and cream.
In Norway Brunost is commonly divided into two types: The ones that only contain cow's cream and/or milk, and the ones that contain some proportion of goat's milk. The latter type is commonly called Geitost or Gjetost (meaning "Goat's Cheese"). Varieties that do not contain any cow's milk are called Ekte Geitost ("True Goat's Cheese"). Technically, the term "True Goat's Cheese" is misleading, since genuine goat's cheese (such as the french Chèvre) is relatively uncommon in Norway, and is commonly called Hvit geitost ("White Goat's Cheese") to avoid confusion.
By far the most popular variety is the Gudbrandsdalsost, which contains a mixture of cow and goat milk, cream and whey. In Norway it is in fact so common, that people just refer to it as "Brunost" or "Geitost", assuming that unless otherwise specified, Gudbrandsdalsost will be provided. This variety is also the most popular internationally, and in the USA it is commonly referred to just as "Gjetost". The second most popular variety is the Fløtemysost, which has a milder taste due to the lack of goat's milk. The third most popular type is the Ekte geitost.
Related to brunost are Prim (in Norwegian) or Messmör (in Swedish), which is a soft, sweet spread commonly sold in tubes all across the Nordic countries. This is the original, ancient product made by boiling whey for a shorter period of time than brunost, and not adding milk or cream. Also, in Norway, pultost is traditionally made from by-products of the brunost-making process, and has a very distinctive flavour.
Brunost is mostly used as a topping for sandwiches, crispbread and biscuits. It is very common in the traditional Norwegian matpakke ("sandwich pack", literally "food pack"), which is the traditional, Norwegian way of obtaining lunch - in which sandwiches are packed in sandwich paper or in a lunch box in the morning, and carried to work for consumption in the 30 minute lunch break commonly afforded to Norwegian workers. One advantage of Brunost for this purpose is that although its texture changes if left un-refrigerated, its taste does not. Brunost is also popular on Norwegian waffles, and as an ingredient in cooking - particularly in sauces for game meat.
To what extent Brunost is healthy or not, has been the subject of some controversy in Norway. Brunost contains high amounts of calcium, proteins and vitamin B, as well as Iodine, which is beneficial. It also does not, as other cheeses do, contain salt. It used to contain significant amounts of iron because it was traditionally made in iron pots. In fact, when modern production methods with aluminium pans were introduced by the Norwegian dairy co-operative, the government was worried that it would significantly reduce iron intake in the general population, and ordered iron to be added to the cheese. Modern Brunost does not contain significant amounts of iron.
However, the (natural) sugar content of Brunost is quite high, and also the fat content is significant, causing some to warn against it, and even likening it to milk chocolate. However, some tests have shown major nutritional differences between different varieties of brunost. Also, it has been pointed out that the fat content of most Brunost is significantly lower than in numerous other cheeses, such as soft cheeses.
In January 2013, a lorry carrying 27 tonnes of Brunost caught fire in the 3.5 km (2.2 mi) long Bratli tunnel in Tysfjord. The temperature increased so much that the Brunost caught fire, the fats and sugars in the cheese fuelling the blaze, making firefighters unable to approach it until four days later, when most of it had burned out. The tunnel was severely damaged, and was closed for repair for several months afterwards. The accident was widely publicized in international media, and was dubbed "The Goat Cheese Fire". It was likened to the 1999 Mont Blanc Tunnel fire, where a truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire.
- http://www.fondazioneslowfood.com/en/slow-food-presidia/sognefjord-artisan-geitost/ Slow Food Foundation:Sognefjord Artisanal Geitost (Accessed Jan 2015)
- Terri Dunbar-Curran, "Whey to go: Choose cheese", Cape Times, 26 April 2012.
- Ole Bjørner Loe Welde and Ulf André Andersen, "Advarer mot brunost", Dagbladet, 15 August 2003 (Norwegian)
- Gunn Helene Arsky, "Sunne og usunne brunoster: Vi har testet 18 brunoster - det ernæringsmessige spriket er stort", Dagbladet, 4 March 2011 (Norwegian)
- "Norway goat cheese fire closes tunnel", BBC News Europe, 22 January 2013.
- Korva Coleman, "Burning Cheese Closes Norwegian Road For Days", The Two-Way, NPR, 23 January 2013.
- Arne Espelund. Brunosten, historien til et godt næringsemne gjennom 300 år. Trondheim: Arketype forlag, 1998. ISBN 82-992430-2-5 (Norwegian)