A Scandinavian Cheese That Makes a National symbol for Swedish quality produce, Västerbottensost is a classic cheese. Mature and intensely flavourful with a salty, fruity and sour taste, it is widely considered to be the premium cheese of Sweden.
Västerbottensost is made exclusively in Burtrask in the north of Sweden, since 1872. Immensely versatile, this cheese can be enjoyed simply on a sandwich, a fine cheese platter, or in a variety of dishes.
This hard cow’s milk cheese with its unique flavour which is quite salty and even a little bitter, whose texture is granular with tiny holes, is extremely rich in taste with 31% fat. So, what makes this cheese so special?
The traditional story told around the origin of this cheese which is made after a secret recipe kept in the company’s safe, is that its first specimen was created by accident. In 1872, a dairy maid named Ulrika Eleonora Lindström who worked at Gammelbyn dairy in the village of Burträsk, was interrupted during the stirring of the curd, which resulted in alternating periods of heating and stirring of the curdling milk and ultimately a cheese which was initially thought of as a failure. However, when it was tasted, the resulting cheese proved to be strong, aromatic and with a bite, changing minds quickly – thus current Västerbottensost was officially born.
Today the Västerbottensost cheese is produced only by Norrmejerier, at the dairy in Burträsk, still following Ulrika Eleonora’s traditional recipe. The recipe remains a well-kept secret that only a few living people are privy to, and is stored securely in the Norrmejerier’s safe. To this date no other dairy has managed to replicate this unique cheese.
In order to ripen and develop their characteristic taste, all Västerbottensost are rested for at least 14 months. The cheese warehouse in Ånäset, where the cheeses are left to rest, has shelves made from the region’s spruce that are believed to be a prerequisite for the utterly unique taste of Västerbottensost.
The 18 kilogram cheeses are turned over every day for 22 days and then dipped in warm paraffin for protection. Before they are sold, the store manager Ola Larsson and master cheese-maker Thomas Rudin will assess if the cheeses are ready with regard to taste, smell, consistency, texture and appearance, ensuring only the perfect product reaches their customers.
In Sweden, Västerbottenost is eaten year round, at parties, with the traditional dish of pickled herring, or in the highly popular Västerbotten cheese pie or Västerbottensostpaj especially during the celebrations of Christmas, Easter, Midsummer and during the crayfish season in August.
Finally, we should mention that Västerbottensost has been ordered and endorsed by the Swedish royal family since 1990 and been served repeatedly at the renowned Nobel Prize banquets.
(*all images copyright Västerbottensost)