When I first touched down in Oslo in June of 2017, I had one big question in my mind: food? Mostly because I was hungry after an 8-hour travel day from Athens via Stockholm, but also because I had done exactly zero research on Norwegian cuisine and knew not a thing to expect. So I signed up for a walking food tour the next morning and dove in, stomach rumbling.
Yes, I did try whale meat, and shark, and a lot of fish; even some reindeer and moose. But the big surprise of the day came in the form of muddy-colored, tangy sweetness: may I present to you my favorite Norwegian invention since sliced cheese, brunost.
Literally translated as ‘brown cheese’ (even though it doesn’t technically qualify), brunost is produced from cow or goat’s milk and whey. It’s one of Norway’s most iconic foodstuffs, and is often eaten on sandwiches, toast, or my personal favorite, waffles with strawberry jam.
Norwegians may have been producing brunost since as far back as 650 BCE, but the kind consumed today was created by Anne Hov on a small farm near Gålå in 1863. Although now you can find artisanal versions in places like Oslo’s food hall Mathallen, the majority of the country keeps a block of a Tine variety in their fridges.
The taste of brunost is difficult to describe; it isn’t aggressive, but can be off-putting for foreigners. The consistency is almost like a thin fudge, smooth and solid, but with a melting quality. There is a sweetness of course, but not in a sugary way. More like that of a tart cream or yogurt, with a cloying quality similar to but not as strong as that of peanut butter.
My best advice for understanding the taste of brunost is to get yourself to Norway and try it, there’s nothing quite like it.
Waffles with brunost
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the quite unique brunost is on the top of a freshly steaked waffle. As a matter of fact, all throughout the Nordic countries, the Scandinavian style waffles have become extremely popular. Thinner and made in a heart-shaped waffle iron, Scandinavians enjoy their waffles with cream and an embellishment of preserves and jams. In Norway in particular, waffles are often enjoyed with sour cream, brunost and a preserve of jam.
Even though the International Waffle day, known as Våffeldag, has its origins in Sweden the waffle obsession seems to be particularly strong in Norway. Waffles are available just about everywhere and are very much part of Norwegian tradition. Even if you go hiking in the rural mountains of Norway – I assure you will not stumble upon any stores or such, but most likely you’ll stumble upon a small café or such serving only waffles with bruost, coffee, and water.
Feeling eager to stir up some waffles the Norwegian style? In about 25 minutes you’ll feel perfectly Norwegian with this simple waffle recipie.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 ½ cups warm milk
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar; set aside. Preheat waffle iron to the desired temperature.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the milk, butter, and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture; beat until blended.
- Ladle the batter into a preheated waffle iron. Cook the waffles until golden and crisp.
- Serve immediately with brunost!