15 December 2009


Jarlsberg cheese, and let's all pronounce it with a 'y' instead of a 'j' right from the word go ('Yarlsberg, darling?' - 'Yes please, dear...'), is a Norwegian cheese that is absolutely delicious and also has the benefit of looking exactly like cheese is supposed to look in cartoons.

It's mild, but full of flavour. It has big holes in it, and with only a little coaxing you can get a mouse to peek out through one while you take photos and subsequently post them on flickr for fun and profit. It's slightly rubbery, with a yellow, waxy rind to it that you don't eat. (You do nibble as much cheese as possible off the rind before throwing it in the bin, but that's uncultured so make sure you treat it as a chef's prerogative and only do it in the privacy of your own kitchen. It's like those tinned confit of duck legs you can buy in France - if there's an extra one when you open it, keep your mouth shut and pop it in the fridge for breakfast tomorrow...)

Other words that describe Jarlsberg (Yarlsberg, remember!) are nutty, mellow and buttery. I simply use 'delicious'. It melts nicely without spewing out masses of unpalatable grease, works superbly as little cubes in cheese scones (you know, rather than size-zero-model-thin grated shavings which simply get lost in amongst all the flour...), or as an ingredient for cheese straws, sauces and even in souffles. True, it's not as strong as a ripe Gruyere or a nicely mature cheddar, but that's not always a bad thing - even the most splendid Stilton can be a little too much at times, no matter how much Port wine you have to hand. Jarlsberg has nothing, believe me, in common with 'American Cheese' or Kraft Singles. Dairylea Lunchables (an abomination) can go fish. 

Monterey Jack pales in comparison. Even the veritable Port Salut, my seventh favourite cheese, has nothing on Jarlsberg. (Although it must be noted that Jarlsberg is only my sixth favourite cheese.)

I laud Anders Larsen Bakke, who died in 1899 but between his birth year of 1815 and that lamentable day managed to produce the (sixth) finest cheese I've ever tasted. Astoundingly, they stopped making the stuff in the nineteen hundreds, goodness knows why, and only caught up with the scene again in 1950. Mad.

Wikipedia tells me, and I have no idea how it knows, that one ton of Jarlsberg cheese is eaten every hour. It doesn't say by whom, and I don't like to ask.

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