Cheese... but not as we know it

A present (photo) from a visiting student from Norway reacquainted me with a distinctive group of Norwegian unripened "cheese" varieties which are made by thermal evaporation, concentration and crystallisation of whey to which may be added skim milk or cream. These cheeses (collectively referred to as Brunost, meaning brown cheese, and including Geitost, Mesost/Myseost [popular in Sweden and Denmark, respectively], and Gudbrandsdalsost) are characterised by a smooth, creamy body and a sweet, caramel-like taste. Unusually for dairy products, the Maillard reaction is encouraged (the only other example that immediately springs to mind where extensive non-enzymatic browning is desirable in dairy products is the Argentinean dessert confection, Dulche de Leche). It is arguable whether Norwegian whey cheeses should be called "cheese" as they are really fat/protein-enriched by-products of concentrated heated whey. The vast majority of cheeses involve dehydration of milk by controlled syneresis of rennet- or acid-induced casein gels. In the case of these products, dehydration is achieved quite differently (by thermal evaporation) and their manufacture involves extensive lactose crystallisation. Still, to paraphrase the Bard, in this case, a cheese by any other name would taste as sweet!

Further reading:

Fox, PF, TP Guinee, TM Cogan and PLH McSweeney (2000). Fundamentals of Cheese Science. Aspen Publ., Gaithersburg, MD.

Kosikowski, FV and VV Mistry (1997). Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods (3rd edn, 2 vols), FV Kosikowski LLC, Westport, CT.