Guide to Gjetost ...

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What is Gjetost?

'Have some of this, it's lovely.' If you have ever been lucky enough to visit Norway, chances are this is one of the first foods you will face. Typically served on an open-faced sandwich, and looking like a slice of something reddish-brown, you`ll be informed 'It's Brunost - brown cheese.'

More specifically its known as Geitost, Gjetost, Ski Queen, Gudbrandsdalen, or by its generic "Brunost".

It doesn't look like cheese, more like Fudge you think, but you take a bite anyway. 'No way is this cheese!' you say.

And you would be perfectly correct. Strictly speaking it isn't, but next to Fjords, cross country skiing and trolls there are few things more Norwegian than an open-faced sandwich of Brunost. (Brown Cheese)

Curds and Whey

General cheesemaking, all over the world, consists of separating the curds from the whey, and making some sort of cheese from the curds. The whey is then flushed down the drain or used as cattle feed. More recently, whey proteins have become popular as an ingredient in health food and dietary supplements for body-builders. However, in some parts of the world it has been considered good food for centuries. In Italy, for example, it is used to make ricotta, while in Norway it is used to make Brunost.

The upshot of this is that while 'real' cheeses are made only from the curds, ricotta, Brunost and similar, although often called cheeses, are technically whey-based dairy products.


For more than 300 years Norwegian farmers have made cheeses from cow's milk and goat's milk and turned the leftover whey into different kinds of foodstuffs. Many strange concoctions existed and some of these are still available, regionally, today.

The simplest process was to just boil out most of the water from the cow's whey, and shape the remainder into a sweet, low-fat, pale reddish brown 'cheese'. This is the most basic type of brown cheese and is simply called Mysost, or 'whey cheese'. By mixing in cream, or using goat's milk, or a combination of goat's and cow's milk, and/or by leaving more water in the mix, all of today's brown cheeses came into existence.

Making Brunost (Brown Cheese)

Brunost remains a very popular dairy product. Annual production is approximately 12 million kilograms, or almost 4kg per Norwegian. Of this amount, 50% is Gudbrandsdalsost, 30% is Fløtemysost, and between 8 and 10% is Ekte Gjetost. The remainder is made up of other varieties and small scale production sold straight from the farm.

The first step in the making of Brunost is removing the curds. The whey must not contain any remains of curds, rennet or lactic bacteria so today it is often pasteurised and centrifuged. Then milk and cream is added to the whey and it is boiled until it becomes a thick brown mass (in industrial production the initial dehydration is done by methods other than boiling). The brown colour appears at the end of the process when the mass reaches about 100°C. Several factors influence the colour, but a darker colour indicates a more pronounced taste, and a larger risk of it getting burned. The next step is to cool the mass quickly to about 80°C while stirring vigorously so the sugar forms small crystals with an even distribution.

Even though no preservatives are added, Brunost can be kept in the fridge for about four months, and up to a year at -8°C. At lower temperatures the water freezes and ruins the 'cheese'.

Gjetost Variations ...

Brunost is the generic name for lots of different products, but ask the average Norwegian and they will tell you either that their particular preference is the real Brunost, or that Brunost is a misnomer and that it's really Raudost (literally 'red cheese').

This entry will treat all the different types alike and not play favourites. Brunost taste comes mainly from caramelised lactose and hence the product is sweet, with a hint of caramel, and tastes nothing like cheese at all. The use of goat's milk in some types adds another incomparable taste that takes a little getting used to. The texture of Brunost is cheeselike, but because of its high sugar content it is much stickier than real cheeses.

Types of brown cheese include:


With a water content above 30%, making it spreadable, Prim is almost a Brunost cousin. The taste is pure Brunost, however, and in some dialects Prim is the word for all Brunosts.

Ekte Gjetost (Geitost)

The name translates into real (or genuine) goat cheese. Ekte Geitost is made with whey, milk and cream from goats. It has the most pronounced taste of all the Brunosts,and the taste is somewhat sharper than the blended Gjetost. There is a small export of Ekte Geitost, and you can buy Ekte Gjetost here at The Cheese and Wine Shop.


It was customary throughout Norway to boil whey to "prim" - a soft, sweet, brown cheese. Anne Hov, a farmer's wife, was the first person to think of pouring cream into the kettle of prim. Her "fat cheese" got a higher price than her prim and butter, and she is reputed to have saved the Gudbrandsdal valley from financial ruin in the 1880's.


Gudbrandsdal is named after the valley in Norway where it was first produced for export outside the area. It uses whey, milk and cream from cows, and adds goat's milk. There is some production for export, and it is sold as Gudbrandsdalen in other Scandinavian countries, Norgold in Germany, and Ski Queen in UK, North America and Australia.




Cream Whey Cheese made from whey, milk and cream from cows. It has a milder taste than both Ekte Geitost and Gjetost, or Gudbrandsdalsost to give it its full name.


Flotemysost ... Pure Cows Milk GjetostFlotemysost ... Pure Cows Milk Gjetost

How to enjoy Gjetost ... using Brunost ....

The main use of Brunost is on sandwiches, like the open-faced sandwich mentioned at the beginning. It is also used in sauces and as an accessory to lutefisk; but, these are minor compared to the use on slices of bread, rolls and Norwegian waffles.

To get nice slices it is essential to have a cheese slicer as it is almost impossible to use a knife on Brunost in a controlled manner, due to its sticky texture.

Tine Gudbrandsdalsost is slightly firm but flexible and can be cut with a cheese slicer. It is traditionally cut into wafer thin slices with a cheeseslicer and eaten on toast or crispbread. It can also be used in cooking and adds a great flavour to sauces or a sweet fondue. Let yourself be inspired, enjoy Gjetost as a starter, main courses, and desserts - Ski Queen is a versatile cheese with many possibilities. 

Domestic Norwegian varieties include:

The standard Tine Gudbrandsdal Cheese has a pure, slightly tart and sweet taste and it is available in 10 different varieties in Norway. These include a low-fat variety called Tine Gudbrandsdal Lett.
Misvaris is a lighter-coloured variety of Gudbrandsdal Cheese with a pure, sweet taste. Heidal is a darker Gudbrandsdal cheese with a slightly tart, sweet taste. All three varieties have the distinctive taste, characteristic of goat's cheese, which gives them their full-bodied flavour. The ingredients are whey, goat's milk, cream and milk.

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