Jarlsberg Cheese – Norwegian versatility on a plate

Peter Morrell is given a delicious introduction to this unique cheese by acclaimed Norwegian chef Signe Johansen, author of the Nordic cookbook Scandilicious

In 1820 Swiss cheese makers visited Norway and taught the locals their closely guarded secrets on how to make cheese with holes. This locally produced version of Swiss cheese disappeared over time, but the legend of its memorable taste lived on together with the cheese-making secrets.

In 1956 a group of students and scientists, under the leadership of Professor Ole Martin Ystgaard at the Agricultural University of Norway decided to explore this cheese legend and to combine it with modern cheese making technology. Researching old texts and recipes, they created a cheese with fine, round holes and a distinct and nutty taste. The cheese was given the name Jarlsberg.

I recently spent the morning with talented Norwegian chef Signe Johansen finding out how Jarlsberg cheese can be used in so many different ways. Before doing any cooking we started off by actually tasting the Original, and the Special Reserve versions which has been aged for at least 12 months. The texture is semi-soft and creamy and the taste nutty and slightly sweet.

This is a highly versatile cheese and this became evident as the morning progressed. As well as being good as an after dinner cheese on a board it lends itself well to a whole range of cooking recipes.

I started off making little choux buns, carefully folding in the cheese and then adding eggs to the dough to get just the right consistency. These went into the oven while I prepared the stuffing for a squash.

Signe is a keen user of the heritage cereal Spelt, which we had used as the flour for the buns and cooked whole as one of the stuffing components for the squash. Again we combined grated Jarlsberg with the other ingredients before piling the mixture into the de-seeded squash.

By this time the buns were ready, and without letting them cool properly I was soon appreciating their savoury and very moreish flavour. These would be ideal as a canapé with a glass of bubbly.

The stuffed squash was soon ready and this was a real winter warmer dish, ideal for the Norwegian climate and ours. The nutty taste contrasted well with the blander grains of Spelt.

The dishes that you can prepare with Jarlsberg are really only limited by your own culinary imagination. For a snack the cheese is great in a club sandwich or on toast, for parties you can make finger food like croquettes and for winter French onion soup, always a comfort in cold weather.

It had been a mouth watering morning and Jarlsberg is now a permanent item on my shopping list. If fact the class was so good that I included it in my 50 Culinary Highlights of 2013

Jarlsberg is available in all good cheese shops and supermarkets.

For more recipes and information go to www.jarlsberg.com/uk