Most Swedes consider the intensely creamy and flavourful Västerbottensost the tastiest premium cheese of their country.
Västerbottensost is made exclusively in Burtrask in the north of Sweden, since 1872.
It is a hard cow’s milk cheese with a particular flavour approaching parmesan cheese, quite salty and even a little bitter with tiny eyes or holes and a firm and granular texture. It is rich in taste with 31% fat.
Due to its popularity and the long aging process of at least 14 months, the Västerbotten cheese is a bit more expensive than other types of ages cheese, in fact almost twice as much.
The traditional story told around the origin of this cheese which is made after a secret recipe kept in the company’s safe, that its first specimen was created very much 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, minds changed quickly and the current Västerbottensost was officially born.
Today Västerbotten 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 and noone 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 resting 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, the Västerbotten cheese 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.