Gammelost, the Viking umami and healt bomb

Viking umami

Doesn’t this look like scrumptious and moist cake crumbs?  But it is not cake, and yes it is considered moist by some and for being scrumptious, that is a matter of opinion. This is a loved and hated, very pungent Norwegian cheese called Gamalost, Old cheese in English which has roots back to the viking era.

Contrary to the name this cheese only takes a few weeks to produce, and it was once a staple of the Norwegian diet. Like many traditional Norwegian foods, such as flat bread, dry salted meats and stockfish Gamalost could be stored for long periods without refrigeration, hence the name old cheese


Last week I was invited to a cheese event by Feelgood. They presented Norway’s longest cheese buffet at Restaurant Louise in Oslo, a 10 meter table decked with lovely cheese made by small-scale producers in Norway. As you can see in the picture above, there were many different kinds of cheese and many of them familiar to cheese lovers.20160421_163048

I have lived in this country for more or less 44 years and never tried this cheese. This cheese is so pungent and foul smelling in my opinion and only old people ate it. Now that I am getting older myself, I have decided to do something about that.

Gamalost is a fresh cheese product made from skimmed milk, almost like cottage cheese and was traditionally produced at a Seter, a small mountain farmstead used for summer grazing. In the old days almost every farmer produced this cheese, but today as far as I know, it is only produced at Vik in Sogn og Fjordane in Norway, at one of Norways largest commercial cheese producers Tine Meierier. Through their daughter company OsteCompagniet they keep some of the old dairy traditions alive.

In todays production the mold Mucor mucedo is rubbed on the freshly pressed cheese, but back when it was made during the summer pasture it was quite different. The freshly made cheese curd was wrapped in cheese cloth, pressed into molds and  then placed on wooden shelves at the mountain dwelling to ripen, and therefore the Gamalost of the earlier days was unique from farm to farm, depending on the mold it naturally caught. It is said that some of the earlier cheeses even contained penicillin.


The cheese has received international attention, partly because it is extra lean with 1% fat, 50% protein and low in sodium. The flavor is distinctive and robust, crisp and aromatic. According to OsteCompagniets spokesperson, French cheese experts has said that this cheese is pure umami.

There are even health benefits to eating this cheese.Newer studies show that the Gamalost contains high amounts of vitamin K2 and peptides. As we know peptides has a blood pressure lowering effect and vitamin K2 is good for our bones and heart, and is proven to be a cancer inhibitor. The best way to eat this cheese is with a lot of butter, studies show that vitamin K ingested with fat is easily absorbed into our bloodstream. It is said that the cheese is popular among athletes as an after exercise snack, low in fat, high in protein and full of healthy goodness.

Gammal ost
Gamalost with cherry preserves with anise

As mentioned earlier, I had untill this event never tasted this cheese, just smelled it. I have not been a big cheese consumer, but I have learnt to appreciate a good cheese or two over the years, and at this event I did not think that the aroma

 was as terrible as I remember it. In good spirits and with a big dose of courage, I finally tried this cheese. The girl in front of me giggled from my facial expression and I felt like Tom Hanks in the movie Big when he tried caviar for the first time. I did not have a napkin at hand, but I had a glass of beer which I used to jug down the morsel of Gamalost that I had just popped in my mouth. I can tell you that I did not convince the giggler to try the cheese

The cheese is just too much umami for my taste at the moment, but maybe in 40 years or so it will be a little different, or maybe after 24 more tries. They say that to teach a child to like a flavour, they need to taste it 25 times.