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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.

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Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar is representing the gold standard of Cheddar. This standard has of course changed over the centuries, but has kept pretty stable for the best part of the last 70 years or so. How a Cheddar taste, or any other cheese for that matter, is not something that change overnight, but every now and then innovations occur, changing flavour or texture a tiny little bit. Innovations have happened, enough to mention the names Edith Cannon and Joseph Harding who each in their own way laid some of the foundations for today’s Cheddar.

keen's farmhouse Cheddar
Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar

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Brie de Meaux – tried it young?

Anything like a good Brie? Got to be a mature Brie de Meaux. King of Cheeses and the Kings’ Cheese as it was so lyrically described after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The French statesman Talleyrand had a load of Brie de Meaux shipped to Vienna and served during one of the dinners to smooth the negotiations. Or it could just be he was home sick and some French cheese would ease his yearning desire to go home. But the cheese became a success at the dinner and wicked tongues have it the French escaped the negotiations without being too seriously wounded. Could be. I am Norwegian and we want our Brie de Meaux or any of the many wannabes, well matured. What about you? And what is best?

brie de meaux
Young Brie de Meaux, like the French prefers it.

Brie de Meaux the French way

Norwegians and the French are definite opposites in many ways, but also when it comes to how we prefer our Brie. We want it well matured while the French want it rather fresh. Fresh means about four weeks old; that’s the minimum maturing time for a Brie de Meaux. But of course, it might be older.

I have to admit that I usually have had my Brie rather mature. And with a fascination for the farmyard aromas and flavours it develops with time. Which again some find a bit too opulent. Well, then my recommendation is to look for a younger version. The difference between young and mature is easily detected, just look for the somewhat lighter and firmer core as shown on the picture above.

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Dairy and fine acidity

There is a huge difference between a young and a mature Brie de Meaux. Flavours of milk and a fine acidity. Nothing like farmyard at all. Even though I quite like the mature version, I think this young cheese was very refreshing and will choose it when I find it. More common in France than here, I suppose.

Not just young Brie in France

As it is, they don’t just eat young Brie in France. There is something called Brie Noir, which, as the name indicates, is rather on the dark side. Matured for at least eight months. I’ve never tasted it, but would love to. The French have it for breakfast dipping it in their café au lait. And with a touch of prejudice, a Gauloises as well.

To drink

Brie de Meaux pairs well with a red wine. Preferably from Burgundy, but not necessarily. Not on the heavy side though, no Parker pleaser. Otherwise, Champagne of course. Mature.

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