Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cheese: Jarlsberg

Jarlsberg cheese is made of cow's milk and originated in Jarlsberg, Norway. Jarlsberg County is now part of Vestfold County, south of Oslo. 
It may also be named Count Vadel Jarlsberg whose estate was near where the cheese was first produced. The largest producer of Jarlsberg is TINE BA, in western Norway, the largest Norwegian agricultural cooperative. Alpine Cheese in Ohio and Dairygold in Ireland are also licensed to produce it. The Jarlsberg I purchased came from TINE BA in Oslo. It bills itself as a semi soft part-skim cheese and I found it very mild, and a little bit sweet. It is also described as "buttery" and "nutty," which both fit. It also has a hint of the Swiss cheese taste I don't like, but it is so insignificant that it does not hinder my enjoyment of it. It is yellow and has irregular holes or eyes. 
It is also characterized by a yellow wax rind with the Jarlsberg logo on it. 
It is usually aged two to three months, but there is a version known as Jarlsberg Reserve which is aged a year or more and has a stronger, more complex flavor. The beginnings of Jarlsberg can be traced to the 1850s and has similarities to Emmenthaler cheese which was introduced by Swiss cheese makers at that time. Over time, with much research and development by the Dairy Institute at the Agricultural University of Norway, the Jarsberg of today was introduced commercially in the 1960s. 
The recipe is secret. It claims to have the highest awareness among U.S. consumers over any other imported cheese. I taste-tested it along with some Swiss Gruyere cheese, one aged six months and the other twelve months. I found the six month Gruyere to be a little stronger than the Jarlsberg, and it did not have the Swiss taste or the sweetness. That said, I do not have a preference of one or the other. 

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