Cheeses from Ukraine

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of cheese makers from Ukraine on a study tour to Norway to learn about our cheese traditions in general, but more specifically learn about brown cheese. This previously very Norwegian “cheese” regarded as a curiosity by the rest of the world is about to gain world wide reputation. There are two aspects to that, how great a Norwegian product has caught the interest of the cheese world meaning a lot of cheese makers both see the value of the product but not least see the economy of utilising the whey. On the other hand, the Norwegians need to hold on to the tradition that this is originally a Norwegian product. Some see this interest from abroad as a danger. I don’t. We just have to focus on our wide array of traditional brown cheeses. The thing is brown cheese is not one thing, there are many of them using various combinations of cow’s and goat’s whey added milk and cream in any combination you may think of. Brown cheese is a generic designation of a cheese that is as different as the areas they come from and the cheese makers making them. So can we deny the rest of the world to boil whey until it thickens and turns brown? Think not. But we can of course deny the world to call it Brunost.

The thing is, I have checked and there is hardly any of the brown cheeses in Norway that have any mention of brunost on their packaging. Heidalsost does, though, but rather discreet. They are branded with their individual names, such as for instance Gudbrandsdalsost. So brunost is something we use colloquially but not something producers use to identify their product.

Cheesemaking in Ukraine

What kind of cheese do they make in Ukraine? All sorts actually, just like anywhere else. From cow’s, goat’s and ewe’s milk with the two former being dominant. And as might be obvious from the above, brown cheese. And, look at the top image, they make beautiful cheese art. Made from pasta filata style cheese.

The reason though, why this delegation came all the way from Ukraine to Norway was of course to learn more about brown cheese, but also to learn how to organise the cheese makers, how we sell our cheese and so on. Just as important. After our day at Avdem they sat up till 3 am to discuss organisational matters. So when they have been to Aurland, Undredal, Hol and also as far as I know met with the leader of the board of Norsk Gardsost, I think they have a pretty good view of how we are doing things, and hopefully can utilise this knowledge to develop their trade. I am sure someone is willing to go there to do some consulting as well. Could bring back home some valuable know-how as well as a bonus.

Big and small

Of those attending there were small cheesemakers with a few goats or buying milk from neighbours, and there were big players with 1700 milking goats and 500 cows, describing themselves as small, making 600 tonnes of cheese a year. Ukraine is a huge farming country as we have learned through the news regarding export of grain. But obviously not just grain. They are undoubtedly a major global food supplier. It’s a big country and more than half of the area is arable land. Farming gives employment to about 14 per cent of the country’s population and farm products are by far the biggest export commodity. The current situation is particularly strainfull for the small farmers, the type of farmer that just visited Norway to learn more. It’s impressive in this situation how they travel to learn how to develop their trade to secure incomes and employment. These farmers and cheese makees are true stayers. They deserve our support.

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