Västerbottensost© – true Northern soul
Drive nine hours out of Stockholm and you arrive in a remote rugged and beautiful part of northern Sweden. Here, surrounded by a picture-perfect landscape of thick spruce forests, diamond-clear blue lakes and fresh mountain air, you’ll find the small town of Burträsk, population 1.491. This in the only place in the world where the renowned Västerbottensost© cheese can be made.
Many have tried to make this award-winning unique cheese elsewhere, including the people of the Västerbottensost© dairy themselves. The results might look like Västerbottensost©, and they may even have the creamy characteristics of this small-holed cheese, but they never, ever taste right. But why does Västerbottensost© cheese have to be made in the place it was created?
Back in 1872, a dairy maid named Ulrika Eleonora Lindström created her recipe. She had inherited 500 crowns and used the money to get an education to attend dairy school. Returning home with her new knowledge, it took Ulrika just three years to take charge of running the dairy.
However, the story goes that Ulrika was one day distracted from her cheesemaking duties by a lover’s kisses, so the fir that was heating the curds kept going out. The resulting cheese, made from curd heated for a lot longer than usual, was left to age regardless of Ulrika’s distractions. Fourteen months later, a happy accident was discovered. This mistake had resulted in a superb texture and flavour, unique to this one product that would become known as Västerbottensost©.
While the detailed recipe for Västerbottensost© cheese remains a well-kept secret that only a few are privy to, the question of why the cheese cannot be made anywhere other than the dairy at Burträsk remains a huge mystery, including for the current cheesemakers.
Some believe the secret may be found in the local cows. The cattle, happily free to graze across the green landscape, produce a milk unusually lacking in the kinds of spores that can make dairy production difficult. Others believe the secret is in the spruce trees, giving the special taste characters that are only found in this smooth crumbly cheese.
There is also a theory that the local mineral-rich soil could be the result of an ancient meteor strike, which would certainly help to explain why production of Västerbottenost© in other areas has never been successful. Along with this, the region is so far north that the sun never sets during summers that are full of life and growth – and winters never see daylight, allowing nature to hibernate and return in slower, stronger ways. A combination of these theories could easily hold some of the answers to what makes Västerbottensost© so unique.
Today, Thomas Rudin, oversees the limited production of what has become known as the king of Swedish cheese. Thomas lives and breathes cheese, and by ensuring a steady, sustainable increase in production, the little dairy in Burträsk can now produce enough cheese to export to the UK
In order to produce Västerbottensost© cheese, 100.000 litres of milk are pumped daily into the cundling vat. For every kilo of cheese produced, 10 litres of milk are needed. Today, 150,000 cheeses are produced each year. In Sweden, the Västerbottensost© Pie – a very creamy cheese tart – is a much-loved treat. The cheese itself has such a full flavour that it doesn’t need any other ingredients, although it works very well with wild mushrooms added before baking.
The cheese is also an alternative in recipes and dishes where a strong, hard cheese is required. A small bit of Västerbottensost© cheese can lift a pasta dish to new levels. Try it in a pesto (add dill for additional Nordic flavour notes) and in salads.
In Hong Kong you can purchase Västerbottensost© at SverigeShoppen – -do not miss this during your next visit there.
Please share this story