Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whey Cheeses - Prim-ost, Mysost, Gjetost

Part 1 - About Prim-ost

Many years ago we received an anonymous request from one of our customers:

I found your website and I am wondering if you have a recipe for a Norwegian cheese my Grandmother used to make. My mother said it was called Prim-ost, a light beige in color and very sweet. She thinks it was made of milk with rennet? I would be very interested in the recipe.

Our response in the "Customers Looking for Recipes" section was as follows:

It turns out that Prim-ost is another name for Mysost which is in the book, Home Cheese Making.

This response sat undisputed on our website for years until we recently received this note from Louise Kent in Denmark:

I just read your Q and A on Prim-ost! The answer you gave is not quite correct!

I am from Denmark and my grandmother was Norwegian. Prim-ost is a Norwegian cheese, as well as Myseost. But Myseost is a hard cheese and Prim-ost is a cream cheese. It is not the same. 

Prim-ost is sweeter than Myseost. Myseost can be bought in different types. The mildest one is made from cream, the middle one is half cow milk and half goat milk, and the strongest one is all goat milk.

Just wanted to tell you because I'm a big enthusiast when it comes to this Norwegian specialty.

Part 2 - About Mysost

While we were looking for information about Prim-ost, we found a very interesting blog - thepurloinedletter.  The author, who calls herself "The Raven," had made Mysost and she was willing to let us publish her account of it here:

Mysost is a Norwegian cheese made from caramelized cow's milk whey, often the whey left over after making traditional curd cheese. When made with goat's whey, the cheese is called gjetost. They are unusual--not what you'd necessarily expect when someone tells you they are serving you cheese. Both cheeses are smooth, sweet, sour, salty, slightly brown--and deliciously different.

The recipe calls for only two ingredients. We purchased a couple of quarts of whey from our dairy farmer, combined it with a little cream, and put it on to heat. (If you prefer, you can make it with only whey, although your cheese will be slightly grainier.) You can certainly use your own whey--that made after draining yogurt to make yogurt cheese will even work. I don't think it is particularly easy to find commercial whey, however.

We brought the whey up to a full boil then turned down the heat a bit. After several hours (4 for us, but sometimes as much as 12 hours) at a gentle boil, the whey had reduced to a fudge-like consistency. After beating it severely, we cooled it in its pan over a bowl of iced water and poured it into a little buttered glass bowl.

Mellowing in the refrigerator for 24 hours helps the flavor of mysost. But I couldn't wait:

Part 3 - About Gjetost

When we were looking for information about Prim-ost online, we found this wonderful blog, ndhomekeeper, created by Lynn Bartlett of Bartlett Farm in North Dakota.  She was kind enough to let us use this excerpt from it:

Last summer I helped in the kitchen of a local retreat center when they were hosting a Sons of Norway Norwegian camp. It was there I tasted a goat cheese called Gjetost. There are different spellings as well as names for this cheese. The Norwegians place it on bread (just a very thin slice) along with raspberry jam, and it was delicious! I determined then and there I was going to learn how to make it.

The lady that introduced me to it stated that the process needed both goat and cow milk, but I have since discovered there are three cheeses that can be made: whey from just goat milk, a combination of goat and cow milk whey, and whey from only cow milk. Our goats are dry now, so I will use cow milk until our goats are milked again in the spring.

I found a recipe on the Fankhauser cheese website, but it seemed hard to follow. About a year ago I purchased Ricki Carroll's book, Home Cheese Making, and found the recipe in there. I had lots of questions after reading her recipe, but forged ahead and made a batch.

Mysost (another name is Primost) is the result of taking the whey byproduct from making cheese and slowly boiling it down to where it caramelizes and thickens. Cream is added towards the end of the process, but that's all there is to the ingredients. This whole process has taken me from 6 to 12 hours. I can see why it's recommended that a wood cookstove be used instead of a conventional stove top -- that's a lot of electricity!

The first time I made a batch the end result was grainy, but that has only happened one other time and I think I've cooked up 5 batches. Each batch has given us approximately 30 ounces out of about 7 quarts of whey. Jim, Peter and I enjoy it on toast for breakfast, along with our homemade raspberry jam. It's easy to make if you have the time to spend in the kitchen close to the stove.

Part 4 - More about Whey Cheeses

All this inspired us to do some further research about these cheeses:

Apparently, in 1863, a 17 year old home cheese maker in Norway had the idea of adding cream to whey, bringing it to a boil and reducing it into cheese. She created a brown cheese which everybody liked.

She was able to sell it and it is actually said to have saved her valley financially in the 1880's. When she was 87, in 1933, the King of Norway gave her a medal for her invention. To this day, 25% of the cheese consumed in Norway is Brunost (brown cheese).

Through the years, many variations of her cheese were developed, including:

Ski Queen brand Gjetost - Made from half cow's milk, half goat's milk. This is the mild form most of us have tried here in the U.S.

Prim - Made from cow's milk with sugar added. This is boiled for less time than all other kinds.

Ekte Gjetost (real Gjetost) - Made from goat's whey.  This has a darker color and richer flavor than Ski Queen brand Gjetost.

Flotemysost - Made from cow's milk whey, enriched with cow's milk cream.

Gudbrandsdalsost - Made from both cow's and goat's milk (10 to 12 % goat's milk). This is the most popular form in Norway.

Mysost - Made from all cow's milk whey.  In Norwegian, "myse" means "whey" and "ost" means "cheese."

In our book, Home Cheese Making, there is a recipe for Mysost (p.150) and a recipe for Gjetost (p.151). We think Prim-ost is made the same as Mysost, but boiled for less time so that it remains spreadable. If anyone has an actual recipe for Prim-ost, please share it with us. We do love our brown cheese!


Lynn Bartlett said...

Thanks, Jeri, for including my post in your blog entry. Cheese making is such a challenge! I'm looking forward to reading more of your articles.

Grammie of 30 said...

We just made our first cheese from raw cow's milk, which we heated to 190 degrees and cooled before making the cheese. We saved the whey because we just could not bring ourselves to throw it out-- thank you so much for answers about what to do with the whey! We will try it in bread and boil some down, too. Thanks!!

Bettie Taylor said...

After making my first ever batch of cheese, I wondered what to do with the whey, since I hated to throw it out. Thank you so much for the very helpful information!

K Hovet said...

I will relate to you what my parents taught me about Primost. It is made from cows milk. My grandparents made theirs from the left over whey after churning cream into butter, but I expect any whey could be used. Boil the whey until it turns the color brown you want. Also, the lighter the color the more spreadable it is. Boiling it for longer produces a hard cheese. When almost done you can add salt or sugar or cream depending on your tastes. The cheese without the cream gets a little grainy. Using salt is in keeping with most other cheeses. Sugar was not used commonly quite simply since it was expensive. When you get the color and consistency you want, then let it cool and pack it in whatever container you want to keep it in. Letting it age in the refridgerator for a week or so greatly improves its taste. It is simple to make although it does take some time.
Good luck and good eating,

Jeri said...

Thank you! It sounds like you come from a long line of good cooks...

K Hovet said...

I usually take up notice of how to make the foods I like!
One other note; whey can purchased from most feed mills. Most stock a product called Sweet Edible Grade Whey. Don't let the fact they use it in animal feeds deter you from trying it. A good mill manager will sell it to you by the pound and it can be used to make the cheeses talked about here. This is a dry from of whey but it can be reconstituted and boiled down just like the liquid whey.
Good luck and good eating,

Jeri said...

That's very interesting. I didn't know that. Thanks again for the good info!

Chris Calentine said...

I am just getting into cheese making AGAIN. I think I will have to start all over, it's been 30 years. BUT . . . .
I do remember making the Mysost. I used a crock pot to evaporate most of the water, then as it got thicker I transferred it to a stainless skillet for the final reduction. I did ad pecans and took it to the slicing consistency. We all love the stuff. I will be putting a photo play by play when I make my next cheese and will include the Mysost. It will be on my blog http://hehooluvstocook.blogspot.com/ look for it in a week or two.

Jeri said...

Let us know when you post it!

Kendy Sawyer said...

I've been trying Mysost from the Home Cheese Making directions. Sometimes I just don't get things that are obvious to everyone else.
I'm unclear about what whey to use - can this be made with the whey left from Ricotta? Or is the coagulated Albumin the basis for this cheese?
Since whey bought from a farmer was used in the blog, can I assume that the "rule" that the whey should be no older than 3 hours does not apply?
Why do so many whey cheeses call for extremely fresh whey? What happens to the whay as it stands?

Jeri said...

We have a technical advisor, Jim Wallace, who answers all questions- jim@cheesemaking.com. Just copy your comment to him and he will promptly answer. I know he is also working on an article for our website about whey and it's uses. When that is posted, you will see the link to it in our Moosletter. Happy cheese making!

Kendy Sawyer said...

Jeri, thanks for the contact.
I thought I'd share some of Jim's helpful answers to my email.
Fresh whey is best because the lactic acid bacteria that made our cheese delicious are still at work on the lactose left in the whey. Whey at a pH above 5.8 makes the best cheese - so either use it quickly - or heat treat it to stop the bacterial action.
I've now made 2 successful batches where I have stopped the cooking overnight.
Any type of whey works - but the results are a little different. Mysost or myesost from a soft cheese with only one drop of rennet to 1 gallon of milk makes a white cheese.
The use of an immersion blender and adding cream near the end of cooking reduce the graininess significantly.
Scorching the cheese gives it a very unpleasant taste, be careful!

Jeri said...

Thanks for sharing that with everyone. Happy cheese making!