Lactobacillus Helveticus – threatening artisanal firm cheeses?

Poor Lactobacillus Helveticus, what wrong has it done? Nothing really, it’s a lactic bacteria along many others. The thing is, as it often is in this world, too much of it turns out bad. Too little is not relevant in this connection. During cheese making of some cheese styles, like alpine for instance, moderate amounts of this lactic bacteria is included in the starter culture used for making this style of cheese. That’s how it is, that’s how it’s been. It is the Lactobacillus Helveticus that provide the sweet, nutty taste that alpine cheeses are so famous for, especially some of the Swiss ones. For other cheeses this lactic bacteria is not present at all or just plays a minor role. So why is the Lactobaillus helveticus a potential dager to small scale artisanal firm cheeses?
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Raw milk cheese in the grocery stores

The representation of raw milk cheese in grocery stores is a very Norwegian issue. I’ve performed sort of a status check locally, knowing the Oslo area is different from the rest of the country, probably. Grocery stores in this context means supermarkets. If you’re hunting cheese from raw milk, the discount stores, representing some 60 per cent of the grocery market, is a meager place to look. Of course, there is always a pre-packed Parmigiano Reggiano. Even a Grana Padano in some of the stores if they need a somewhat cheaper variety.

raw milk cheese
Local raw milk cheese all of this – in Portugal.

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Galopin – New kid on the Block

Galopin – new kid on the block? No not really, they’ve been around for a while, under an other name and management. They used to be Ma Poule in Norway, at the Oslo Food hall, but they had to close down, and Galopin has arisen as a phoenix from whatever remained after Ma Poule. A scaled down concept, these days, which I think is more well suited to the market it is supposed to serve. However things were, I appreciated their presence giving more variety to the Oslo cheese scene. A bit of charcuterie as well. C’est tout.

“New” cheese shop at the Oslo Food hall.

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Olestølen mikroysteri – the tiniest dairy

The invitation was rather impersonal, it was a short Facebook post from Olestølen mikroysteri with a picture showing someone’s been there to make cheese and take pictures, and a general invite for anyone else to come if they so wanted.
Well, I jumped at it. Not that often I have the opportunity to make cheese. Last time was back in February this year, and before that in July last year, Cato Corner Fram, CT, the USA that was, actually. I do occasionally invite myself and from time to time get accepted. But I am a modest man, so not often I am brave enough to ask. That said, I have made cheese a few times, so I am starting to get at grips with it, but most cheese makers have their own routines, so some surprises do occur even though I more or less know what’s up next. All this said, the cheesemaker responded politely and wished me most welcome to the mountain farm/chalet where she and the herd of 35 goats resided during summer. Milking and cheesemaking starts early, so I accepted her offer to arrive the night before.

olestølen mikroysteri
Mrs. Kathrin Aslaksby, cheesemaker at Olestølen.

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Lille Aske and other cheeses from Bos ysteri

Lille Aske is the cornerstone of the assortment of fresh and slightly mature chèvre style cheeses from Bos ysteri at Jæren, south west Norway. It’s about an hour’s drive east, north east from Stavanger. Bo is a Dane that by and large has turned Norwegian. By and large meaning; except for his language. He speaks Danish. Which he will continue doing for as long as he lives. Part of the charm, but sometimes difficult to understand. Bos ysteri (Bo’s dairy) where Lille Aske and the other cheeses he creates are made, is quite modest and as such proof that you don’t need all that much space to make world class cheese. The raw milk is led through pipes across the yard from the farm’s milking parlour. The farm has about 150 milking goats and Bos ysteri does not use all the milk produced at the farm, but whatever he needs for his cheese making when he needs it, is supplied.

Lille aske
Bo Jensen shows some of his creativity

Not just Lille Aske

It’s Lille Aske that has received the most fame, naturally as it has won a few prizes, among other things a Super Gold at World Cheese Awards in London last year. Same competition as will be held in Bergen, Norway later this year. Bos ysteri and Lille Aske will be there to compete. But not only with Lille Aske. Supervised by French Patrick Anglade, Bo is working hard on a fine selection of cheeses to bring to this year’s World Cheese Awards.

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In addition to Lille Aske, the disc shaped Fjelltopp has been around since the start. Fjelltopp means ‘mountain top’ so the name is not very descriptive. So be it. A fine cheese that one as well, even though it has been slightly overshadowed by its more famous brother. This year Snøball (snow ball) was created, ironically both with and without ash. Then a Valençay shaped pyramid. That’s probably not the end oft it. Perhaps it is Bo the confectionary that has a go with creativity. For the sake of continuity, though, it is important the two staple cheeses hangs in there.

lille aske
Some of the goats at Aurenes farm.

Why has Bos ysteri had such success?

There are a few reasons for that. Winning prizes helps of course. Gives you more energy and publicity. But these prizes are not won unless the actual cheese making is top notch. Excellent work gives the best results when the raw material is at its best, as well. And the farming family at Aurenes provides some of the best goat’s milk there is in Norway. All this provides for world class cheese to made at this mini dairy.
There is, however another factor not to be forgotten. Bo’s tireless efforts to promote his cheeses. On social media as well as in “real life”. Meeting cheese mongers, chefs, the press and consumers. It all adds up the the success Bo and his cheeses have had. But bottom line, the cheese quality has to be on top, all the time.

Lille Aske
Lille Aske fra Bos ysteri

The taste

Taste is the essence. You may try a cheese, if you don’t like it, there is no repurchase. Such is life. Bo’s cheeses has a very clean taste of milk, they’re balanced; a touch of sweetness up against the acidity. I am fascinated when cheese with a geotrichum rind is a little bit runny underneath the rind. That is Fjelltopp’s pre. Lille Aske is drier, probably because of the ash, pulling moist out of the paste.

To drink

This is a classy chèvre style cheese crying for classy chèvre wine. Sancerre.