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I often get incredulous looks when I answer that most mundane of questions "what did you have for breakfast?", as I often answer 'curry', or 'lasagne' or 'soup'. Not that I don't eat 'normal' things for breakfast like toast or porridge, but I find it weird that there's an ethos that you can't eat whatever you want for the first meal of the day, especially as it's supposed to be the biggest and most filling of them. So I was delighted to learn a few years ago that the Norwegians have been eating cheese, without raised eyebrows pointing at them, for breakfast for decades. I gladly joined in.
Gjetost, or brunost as it is sometimes known, is a chunky, smooth brown cheese from Norway. Made from the whey of goat's milk, the sugars in the milk are allowed to caramelise, giving it a distinctive brown colour, as well as a very unusual taste. The caramelisation gives it a sweeter taste than would be expected of most other cheeses, and has a flavour reminiscent of condensed milk. While it's made of goat's milk, this really doesn't taste like any typical goat's cheese, and doesn't have that characteristic sourness that one might expect. Texture-wise it's quite smooth and chewy - I don't think I'm selling it well at all with this review, but I find it really nice on toast, sometimes with peanut butter, banana and jam if I'm feeling really indulgent or am planning on doing a 5 mile run shortly after. I also experiemented making a pizza out of it, but that was a huge mistake and it was just too weird to eat.
Getting hold of it over here used to be tricky, as I never saw it in the supermarkets and only saw it turn up at the odd cheese stall or deli counter. Now though, the internet allows for ordering as much of the stuff as you like. The most popular variety is made by Gudbrandsdalen, and comes in distinctive red packets of 250, 500 or 1000g portions. For me, a 250g pack will last for ages, since it's only palatable when used sparingly - I use a cheese slicer to shave off thin bits - coincidentally, cheese slicers were also invented by a Norwegian carpenter, who modified one of his tools just for getting slivers of cheese. And it's also hefty in the calorie department. Recently a truckload of the stuff caught fire in a tunnel in Scandinavia and burned for about 2 days as it's so packed with energy.
This is available from Scandikitchen.co.uk, as well as a few other sites though doing a quick price check and the former seems the best value. If you're looking for something a bit different, and you don't think the sound of brown-condensed-milk-cheese too weird or unappetising, then I can recommend this stuff. It is an acquired taste though, so don't be too surprised if it isn't to your liking.
I guess anyone who bothers to write a short piece on Gjetost likes it, otherwise he would have even more time on his hands than someone like me! I have a Norwegian grandmother who always serves us Gjetost at Christmas time. A strange, dark colour, as a child I was not eager to try it. But as I became a big fat cheese-lover, it quickly became one of my favourites. I am pleased that it is pictured with a proper Norwegian cheese slicer - in my opinion, no household is complete without one. Gjetost is less 'stinky' than Jarlsberg, but like Jarlsberg, it benefits from being given a few minutes to warm up before being served. Few cheeses are nice right out of the fridge. In England, Gjetost will be relatively hard to find, but posh cheese shops will have it I'm sure. Please give it a try - after all, there is a little Norwegian in all of us.