Gubrandalsost, Brunost, or Norwegian Brown Cheese
If you've never been fortunate enough to try Norwegian brown cheese, or Gubrandalsost, Brunost and Geitost, as it's variously called in Norwegian, I should warn you not to expect a typical cheese experience. Although rare in the US, brown cheese is absolutely ubiquitous in Norway. Every household seems to have a brick sitting in the refrigerator, and they even make little red, plastic lids that fit snugly on top so that the package needs only to be pulled down around the edges and no extra cling wrap is required. My fiancé is Norwegian, and when I tried to remove the package completely from our brick for the sake of aesthetics, I was told in no uncertain terms that this is not how it's done. The package evidently is meant to stay on, fitting snugly around the cheese so that it holds its shape and its freshness is preserved.
Since the appearance of The Omnivore's Hundred over at Very Good Taste, there have been several mentions of brown cheese on various blogs. Although I think the suggestion of paring it with a crisp fruit such as apples or pears is very inspired and most likely absolutely delicious, my fiancé is adamant that this, too, is not how it's done (who knows, he may only be speaking for his part of Norway, which is the south-west part). However, when I've been in Norway, the way I've seen it eaten is thinly sliced (it must be sliced with a cheese cutter, not with a knife, in order to achieve the correct thickness), on a wasa cracker, sometimes accompanied with strawberry jam. I have never seen it rolled, eaten on plain fruit, or cut thickly into chunks the way we in the US might snack on a brick of cheddar.
Brown cheese is surely not for everyone, it's almost sweet at first, and has an aftertaste sometimes described as "weird." Certainly it's a strong flavor, which is why it's sliced thinly, and its creamy consistency is a perfect match with the hearty wasa cracker, which really helps to cut some of the sweetness. In fact, my fiancé claims that brown cheese comes in its distinctive square shape specifically to fit on this type of cracker. Personally, I'm completely addicted and often find myself craving a little brown cheese treat. So if you're brave enough to try, try it the Norwegian way. Although I must admit that my next snack will probably include a strip of cheese, a wasa cracker, and a few thin apple slices. Even the classics, after all, can be improved.
UPDATE: Norwegian brown cheese is typically a goat cheese, in which the milk is boiled, along with the cream and the whey, until the water evaporates. The heat caramelizes the sugars in the milk which gives the cheese its characteristic color and flavor.