Gjetost Cheese. Love it? Hate it? Post your vote!

Ski Queen Gjetost cheese

Gjetost, a Norwegian whey-based cheese

If you’re familiar with gjetost cheese, chances are good that you’ve already formed a strong opinion about it. Like marzipan or Vegemite, Norwegian gjetost (pronounced yet-toast) is considered by some to be an acquired taste, and can be a particularly polarizing food outside of its native homeland.

We here at Two Lazy Gourmets are split down the middle by this divisive delicacy/oddity. When the topic occasionally comes up, Robin wrinkles her nose and offers as charitably as she can, “Oh yeah, gjetost…my friend’s kids love that stuff.” I, on the other hand, first tried this sweet, dense, orange-brown cheese about twenty years ago, and after an initial instant of palate confusion I was totally hooked. I had acquired the taste in a matter of seconds.

Ski Queen Gjetost Cheese

Ski Queen Gjetost Cheese

Gjetost, which means “goat cheese,” is a variety of the centuries-old Norwegian tradition of brunost (“brown cheese”). Brunost comprises many different dairy products made from cow’s or goat’s whey. (Because brunost is made from whey, as opposed to curds, it’s technically not a genuine cheese. But whatever. It says cheese on the package.) It’s made by slowly simmering the ingredients until the water evaporates and the milk sugars caramelize, which results in the distinct brown color and caramel flavor. Some varieties use only goat products, while others use only cow products—giving them stronger and milder flavors, respectively. The rich and delicious Ski Queen brand of gjetost that’s relatively easy to find here in the U.S. contains a combination of goat’s milk, cow’s milk, cream, and whey. And thanks to all of the mouth-watering research I’ve been doing, I’m now on a mission to find prim—a spreadable version of brunost comparable to dulce de leche. I haven’t yet found it here in San Francisco, but I’ll keep looking. Or start planning my next vacation.

For the uninitiated: Gjetost comes in dense, rich, vinyl-smooth blocks; melts slowly in the mouth; and tastes like a tart, salty caramel candy. It’s traditionally enjoyed on toast, shaved into thin slices, sometimes accompanied by jam. I love it with apple or pear, or just by itself with coffee.

Last weekend I gave my friend Carolyn a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In my snack bag I had packed, among other things, apple slices and gjetost. I was a little apprehensive about introducing her to it, for there was a reasonable chance that she, as a brown cheese newbie, would find it thoroughly disgusting and forever remember me as the weirdo who can’t just chill out and eat Doritos on a road trip. My reputation was unharmed, however, as Carolyn spontaneously reacted with the same piqued glee that had grabbed me twenty years ago. This experience inspired me to conduct experiments on a handful of other friends who had not yet acquired (or rejected) the taste for gjetost. The results were mixed, as expected. A couple of them loved it, a couple were indifferent, and one seemed a little weirded out but kept going back for more.

So now I want to know what you think. Do you love gjetost/brunost? Hate it? Not sure? Post your opinions in the comments section. And please include any great ideas for use. I’ll be thrilled to discover new ways to enjoy my favorite curd-free, whey-based, Norwegian dairy product!

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32 Responses to Gjetost Cheese. Love it? Hate it? Post your vote!

  1. Ruth says:

    Love the gjetost! Haven’t tried brunost, but I will if I find it!

  2. It’s me, the “brown cheese newbie.” This cheese is bliss; Juliana introduced me to it on our way to LA last month. Not only did she provide me with a ride, she provided this life-changing cheese (on an apple, it is divine) and I immediately called a friend back in NY to see if she had ever heard of it. I truly feel sorry for anyone who hasn’t experienced the many benefits of a road trip with Juliana; seven hours seemed like seven minutes and I hope we do it again soon.

  3. Robin says:

    This post makes me wonder how much of people’s response to (the exquisite deliciousness of) Gjetost has to do with the fact that it doesn’t look like a typical fancy highbrow cheese. The way a food or dish is presented to us has a huge effect on how we experience its flavor. Some studies have shown that people like food better if it’s arranged prettily on a plate. California wine judges were horrified at themselves a few years ago when they gave a medal to a bottle of white Two Buck Chuck, a wine they might never have thought well of had they seen its label.

    So, here’s my suggestion: try Gjetost out on newbies by telling them you have an interesting new cheesy treat for them to try, and they should close their eyes. Hand them a slice of granny smith apple topped with some deliciously caramely Gjetost. Maybe their taste buds will buzz with “reject! reject!” But I bet many of them will be less skeptical if they don’t first see a “brown cheese.”

    • Robin says:

      Perhaps, but I think it has something to do with it being described as a sweet cheese. A sweet, brown cheese. I don’t know. For me those three words together are just… unappetizing. Dulce de leche, on the other hand, is without a doubt one of my top 3 favorite foods.

  4. janet gallin says:

    I liked this cheese. Its tan color is dreamy. Unusual exotic taste.

  5. Juliana says:

    Update: I just bought a one-pound block of Ekte Geitost at Cheese Plus. According to this brunost website, “Ekte Geitost is made with whey, milk and cream from goats. It has the most pronounced taste of all the Brunosts. The name translates to Real (or Genuine) Goat Cheese. There is a small export of Ekte Geitost.” I agree that the taste is more pronounced than the milder Ski Queen cow/goat product that I’m used to. It’s got a slightly saltier, tangier, goatier flavor. I like it!

  6. kim says:

    Hi, as a norwegian its funny to read your experiences with our Brown Cheese:) When I was a child I hated it myself, but after a while it kinds of grow on you, and now I love it! You guys should try eating it with waffles. Take brown cheese, sour cream and jam on top of your waffles, it tastes divine:) Or use it with any type of bread.
    Kind regards Kim

    • Juliana says:

      Thank you for the extravagant and heart-clogging waffle suggestion. I’m going to try it! I’m a big fan of sour cream, too.

  7. Linda Gavette says:

    I love this stuff ~ it is the only cheese that stuck with me from years ago when I worked in a cheese shop. I alwasy thought of it a bit like peanut butter, when you slice it really thin. . . yummy!

  8. Wendolyn Nicholds says:

    I love this cheese I would like to know where in Ottawa, Canada I can purchase this cheese. I had it in Norway. I found it in London, Ontario too far to go as I live in Ottawa and would love to get another package.
    ps where in Hamilton, as well.
    cheers for the brown cheese.

    • Juliana says:

      If you can’t find it at your local cheese shop you can google “gjetost” and then choose the “shopping” tab. You’ll find lots of places to order it from. Search “gjetost” on amazon.com and you’ll see all kinds of varieties and brands. Yum!

      • Tony Woodward says:

        “Order it online” doesn’t work. Using Amazon.ca you only get cookbooks telling you (presumably, or why did I get a hit?) how to make it. Using Amazon.com you get sources which don’t ship to Canada.

        I love this cheese. I could buy it easily in Britain 40 years ago before I emigrated here, and suddenly I miss it!

        I am in Ottawa too. I suddenly had a craving for it, and I asked the cheese guy at Grace in the Kitchen in Kanata this morning. If anyone can find esoteric cheeses he can. I didn’t know then how hard it is to find here in Ottawa so I didn’t insist, but I think I pricked his interest. Perhaps he will get some just to see how it flies, with a leetle bit more pressure from me. If only people here knew about this cheese it would be a top seller I know.

        The generic name is Brunost, although I knew it as Gjetost too back in the UK when I used to buy it regularly at a local weekly market.

        Anyone in Ottawa, go into Grace in the Kitchen and ask the cheese guy for it. Numbers tell! A cheese that tastes like caramel? What’s not to like? I’m sure he will be happy to order in some if he gets enough requests.And I challenge you to go in there and not buy something else!

      • Tony Woodward says:

        Now if only someone could find me Single Gloucester here in Canada. My favourite cheese of all!

    • Ingrid says:

      Denningers delicatessen in Hamilton, burlinton and Oakville!

  9. Wendolyn Nicholds says:

    Success I found the cheese at Foodsmiths in Perth and a $1.00 cheaper than London.
    on my travels I now have a source.
    today I had it with fresh home grown tomatoes and my brown cheese on Little Stream Seasame bread and ummm good.


  10. Barbara Boothe says:

    I love this cheese. I at it at a friends cottage in the Laurentians and never forgot the taste, I still can’t find it anywhere . I live outside of Ottawa on the Quebec side in Cantley QC. Any suggestions on where to find it. Thank you It is the best.

    • Juliana says:

      You can order it online! If you can’t find it at your local cheese shop, just google it or check Amazon.

    • Ingrid says:

      If you ever go to Montreal you can get it at Atwater Market. Also, Kensington Market , st. Lawrence market in Toronto. Most European Deli’s have it.

  11. Margaret says:

    My mom is 100% Norwegian, so we grew up with gjetost in our home! Your story and all the comments are great! It’s true, some of our friends hate it and some love it!!

    We put it on our Norwegian waffle recipe, just butter and gjetost on top of the waffle. Some of my siblings like it with butter, sugar, then gjetost on the waffle! We also put it on toast or julekake (Norwegian Christmas bread).

  12. Nan says:

    Love it. It’s great when you use the cheese slicer to put a thin slice on that coarse dark bread that they make in Norway. And it’s very good on American sourdough toast in the morning.

  13. Josh says:

    Okay. I’ve got to weigh in here. First of all, I LOVE any kind of cheese. Any kind, that is, except for gjetost. Now I know where I draw the line on what I call “cheese”. My in-laws sent me home a couple weeks ago with a block of Ski Queen gjetost they got from a couple of their turtle-necked, semi-retired foodie friends. Being someone who almost never turns down an opportunity to try new foods, especially cheese, I tried a chunk of it on a cracker. I noticed immediately that I did not care for the bizarre mix of caramel and goat flavor. Being polite, I took the package home and thanked them for the unusual treat. Thinking perhaps they might have sliced it too thickly, I then tried a thinly sliced curl just on it’s own. The flavor was still unpalatable to me, and the aftertaste had an adverse effect on my appetite for the next hour or so. Not to be defeated by this unusual new food, I just now tried it for a third time but with applesauce thinking that maybe I’m missing a key accompaniment. Third time’s a charm, right? Nope! This stuff tastes like something went wrong at the factory. Being a self-proclaimed lover of all-things-cheese, I am left to assume that this has just got to be another passing fad. I can’t see why people eat it other than to impress each other. I’m sure Norway is a beautiful place with wonderful cuisine and vibrant culture (hey, I love Geir Jenssen’s music), but the taste I have in my mouth right now is not selling me on anything else Norwegian. Blaeickh!

  14. Malika says:

    It is one of my favorites! I have been eating it since I was a little girl. Yummy!

  15. Ingrid says:

    Love love love it! Best with a bit of jam! Been eating ski Queen goat cheese all my life. Even my cats love it!

  16. Angharad says:

    Love, love, love, LOVE it! Tried it for the first time on a whim; I’d seen it at Stop & Shop (supermarket chain in New England) for some time and never tried it. I was going to a party and I was bringing the cheese, crackers, chips, and dip, and wanted to try something different from the usual cheddar, Havarti, brie, swiss cheeses that I usually bring. What the hell, it can only be lousy. Ethnically, the families aren’t Norwegian nor even Scandinavian but German-Polish Jewish and Irish, so when I opened up the package, I didn’t know what to make of it. No rind, no holes, and I cut it up into small cubes and wedges. The texture is different from all of the other cheeses, and the combination of starting sweet/caramel and the light salty taste at the end made it absolutely delicious and unusual. We tried it with crackers and toast and pears and apples. One family member was a little put off by the color–she wasn’t used to eating brown cheese, but everyone else loved it. Next time I’ll slicing it paper thin and/or melting it over toast. Someone else on a blog suggested using it for fondue, which sounds great. I haven’t tried it with veggies, but it went well with fruit and with a nice dry wine, so I should think it would go well with carrots and celery. Now I wish I’d tried it years ago….and hope that Stop & Shop will continue to carry it.

  17. Kristine D'Souza says:

    You can buy it at the International cheese and deli shop in the byward market in Ottawa. I buy it for my mom every Christmas…

  18. tylerap says:

    Some hint of salt triscuits, a shaving of this weird “cheese” and a dab of strawberry jam and you got a pretty tasty snack!

  19. K.Alan.C says:

    This has now replaced Druken Goat cheese (Spain) as my favorite cheese!

  20. I had this cheese for the first time tonight when a caterer served it at our loft party. I love it! Hope I can buy it here!

  21. Chesca Barnett says:

    This cheese is excellent. It is sold at whole foods. Its great with apples, or but itself.

  22. Andy Aldrich says:

    My grandma was full blooded Norwegian and she always had gjetost as a snack for me as a kid… Loved it then and still loving it!

  23. Barbie says:

    Never had or heard of Gjetost before in my life until I took a class in cheese tasting at Back-to-School Night at my old high school last night. (John Burroughs School in St. Louis, class of 1966.) Delicious cheese. Depending on the cost, I’m going to take some to the Super Bowl party. By the way, what the heck is Velveeta anyway? It can’t be cheese.

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