The idea of eating a cheese that tastes like peanut butter is, to be sure, a little unsettling. These are two flavors that just don’t go together, unless you’re ruthlessly stoned and hard up for groceries. Outside of Norway, where these Scandinavian caramelized cheeses are regularly eaten for breakfast, to the concern of some public health officials, you’re only likely to find gjetost on the shelf at Whole Foods or a specialty grocer. Still, should you find a block of Ski Queen gjetost, you’ve got to throw it into your shopping cart.
On its own, the rich, sweet flavor of gjetost is a little overwhelming. The process of making the cheese involves cooking the natural sugars in goat’s milk for hours, until they caramelize. Gjetost more closely resembles dulce de leche than your average sliced cheddar, in color and in texture. It is decadently rich, so much so that unlike cheddar or mozzarella, it should only be sliced thinly instead of being served in chunks.
Shaved onto apples, or mixed into a grilled cheese, gjetost adds decadence and depth of flavor. As Kay Wrentschler wrote in the New York Times in 2004, gjetost is an “artless cheese,” one without the magnificent blue veins of gorgonzola or perfectly-formed crystals as in parmesan. Gjetost looks like Velveeta, almost, smooth and processed. Still, once you’ve had your first bite of gjetost, you’ll find yourself craving it on the weirdest of occasions. When it does, try these five applications.
On its own, gjetost makes an awesome grilled cheese. Use a cheese grater to shred the gjetost into thin slices and pile as much (or as little) onto two slices of bread. If the gjetost is a little too strongly flavored for you, you could also supplement with a little mozzarella, feta, or goat cheese. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also add fancy accoutrements, like apple butter and cinnamon sugar, to make your sandwich an even more impressive lunch.
Regular cheese fondue is a little dated for a party dish, but gjetost is just interesting and kitschy enough to make your old fondue pot relevant again. Mix gjetost with a little heavy cream, Cognac, and toasted pecans for a rich fondue that is perfect for dipping puff pastry, apple slices, or eating right off a spoon.
It might not be the fanciest cheese on your marble board, but gjetost is always an interesting way to liven up your cheese plate. Serve this cheese with crackers, fresh pears, and fruit compote for a perfect pairing that will almost certainly end up devoured long before that hunk of Maytag bleu.
The sugars in gjetost are already caramelized, but adding the high heat from a blow torch is just about the only way that you’re going to be able to get it to really, really melt. The burned sugars on a slice of torched gjetost have a sort of marshmallow-in-the-campfire flavor quality, and they’re much more fun than boring old s’mores. Use a mandoline to thinly slice an apple, top it with a thin slice of gjetost, and torch away to your heart’s content.
You probably need an excuse to drag out the old waffle iron, and gjetost is an excellent topping for everyone’s favorite indulgent breakfast treat. In Norway, gjetost is frequently eaten on waffles or toast for breakfast, though the waffles there are generally much thinner than the fluffy Belgian waffles that you’re used to. Grate the gjetost sparsely over a piping-hot waffle, then top with fresh fruit or jam. You probably won’t need that maple syrup — gjetost is plenty sweet on its own — but keep it on the table just in case.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. She’s really into gjetost, even though it weirds her out. Find her on Twitter @aemccarthy.
Photo credit: Taryn Domingos, CC-BY-NC-ND