Introduction: Norwegian Brown Cheese
Brown cheese is a very Norwegian thing. It is made from whey, and tastes great on bread, waffles, pancakes or just on its own. It exists in multiple varieties and is relatively easy to make.
Step 1: What You'll Need
The ingredient list is very short for this recipe:
Cream or milk
For this I used 5 liters of whey and 6 dl of cream, but this is not a fixed ratio and highly subjective to personal tastes
Wooden spoon or similar to stir with.
Container for the cheese to harden in.
Step 2: Background
Brown cheese is technically not a cheese, but as it is a product of the cheese making process we'll just keep calling it so.
It has been produced in Norway for a very long time, both as a way to conserve valuable resources and because it simply tastes great.
When you make cheese, you are left with a lot of whey after separating out the curds. The whey contains a lot of lactose and proteins. In much of the world, this whey is simply thrown out as a waste product.
Check out this instructable for a good introduction to making hard cheese.
Long ago, someone, for reasons unknown, kept boiling a kettle of whey until all they were left with was some brown, sticky goo. They must have liked it, repeated the action, told their neighbors who liked it, and a traditional piece of food was born.
Brown cheese exists in a lot of varieties made from cows milk, goat milk, or a mix of the two. It is sold under many different names like mysost, gjeitost, fløtemysost, brunost.
Step 3: Reducing the Whey
First you need to get hold of some whey. This usually happens when you make cheese, but if cheesemaking is not your thing, ask a cheesemaking friend to donate some. A commercial cheese producer might also be willing to give you some.
If salt has been added to the whey in the cheese making process, it might not be useable for brown cheese. We are boiling away all the water from the whey, so the salt is going to be concentrated in the finished product.
Whey from yoghurt making is not very suitable for brown cheese, as the bacteria in the yoghurt culture digest most, if not all, of the lactose in the whey.
When you have got yourself a bit of whey, put it in a kettle on the stove and start boiling it. This is going to take a lot of time, as we are removing all the water. Keep stirring now and then to keep it from burning. The first few hours you just have to stir occasionally, but as it thickens, you need to stir more often. Towards the end, it needs constant stirring.
The resulting brown cheese will differ depending on how you got the whey. Whey from a fresh cheese will make a sweeter brown cheese than whey from making a hard cheese. This is because the bacteria involved in making hard cheese will eat the sugar and produce acid. Whey from hard cheese production needs to be boiled immediately after separating out the curds, to kill the bacteria and preserve the sugar we want.
The whey in these pictures was from making hard cheese. The acid produced by the bacteria might also give a different effect when you start boiling the whey. The white stuff you see floating in the second picture is whey protein and remaining milk fat clumping together. This is actually what ricotta cheese is made of, so you can keep this too and get three different cheeses from one batch of milk. This process only happens if the whey is acidic enough, and you should remove the white coagulate even if you are not making ricotta.
Step 4: Add Cream or Milk
When you whey is reduced to something resembling soft caramel, it is time to add some cream or milk to it. This does a lot to determine the taste of the finished product. A lot of cream gives a milder taste. Goats milk gives a more intense flavour.
After adding cream or milk, you need to reduce it down to the caramel consistency again.
Step 5: Cool and Stirr
When you have reached the desired consistency, remove the kettle from the heat and keep stirring as it cools. This is important to avoid the formation of sugar crystals in the brown cheese.
Step 6: Put in a Suitable Container.
When you have reached the desired consistency of thick molten caramel, pour the brown cheese into a suitable container and leave it in the fridge to cool. Here I used one of the cartons from the milk to shape my cheese block.
Step 7: Unwrap
After cooling down for a few hours, you can unwrap your product. What you see here is the result of trying to take pictures and cooking at the same time. The brown cheese cooled down a bit too much before I put it in the container, so it ended up crumbly and full of holes.
I'm showing this because it might happen to others, and it is not a big problem. We'll fix it in the next step.
Step 8: Cheese Repair
All you have to do to fix a crumbly brown cheese, is to melt it again and cast it one more time. Melting it directly doesn't work very well, so you need to add some milk or cream. This also means you have to boil away the water again.
This remelting can be used to add a different flavour if you are not happy with the first product. You can for instance add more cream to make the cheese milder.
Boiling it less gives you a spreadable product called Prim that tastes about the same.
Step 9: Eat
Now this is more what we were aiming for. You now have a nice block of brown cheese you can enjoy on bread, waffles, pancakes,or whatever else you can think of. This is a sweet cheese as one of the main constituents is lactose ( needless to say, not for the lactose intolerant). It goes well with other sweet stuff like jam, but you can also use it to give a twist to sauces.
Wrapped in plastic or wax paper, this cheese keeps for a long time in the fridge. Due to the high sugar content, it rarely grows mold.
As a variation, you can add spices like cinnamon og cardamom to the cheese.
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