Västerbottensost has been produced in the same way since Ulrika Eleonora Lindström created her mysterious recipe in 1872. The recipe remains a well-kept secret that only a few living people are privy to, and is stored securely in the dairy’s safe. And even though many people have tried to produce the cheese in other places, it has not been possible anywhere other than in Burträsk. Why has no one managed to find an explanation for this?
Production step by step
Every day, 79,000 litres of milk from local cows are pumped into the dairy’s big curdling vat. Which is necessary when you consider that just over ten litres of milk go into every kilogram of Västerbottensost. The milk is then pasteurised to remove unwanted bacteria, by warming it up and then quickly cooling it down again. The milk is then curdled in order to separate the whey and make granular curds which are formed into the final round shape. The wheel is 42 centimetres in diameter – bigger than any other Swedish cheese. This might be one of the reasons for the cheese’s unique taste. The cheese is then put into a press for around 18 hours during which time it is turned over by hand according to a specific schedule. The pre-pressed cheeses are put into a special brine until they are just right with regard to surface, consistency, saltiness and taste.
Letting the cheeses rest
In order to ripen and develop their characteristic taste, all Västerbottensost are rested for at least 14 months. The cheese warehouse in Ånäset, where the cheeses are left to rest, has the feel of a cathedral. The fabled resting shelves made from the region’s spruce are believed to be a prerequisite for the utterly unique taste of Västerbottensost. The 18 kilogram cheeses are turned over every day for 22 days and then dipped in warm paraffin for protection.
“The fabled resting shelves made from the region’s spruce are believed to be a prerequisite for the utterly unique taste”
In order to decide whether the cheeses are ready, a small piece is extracted using a drill, which store manager Ola Larsson and master cheese-maker Thomas Rudin then assess with their sensitive and experienced mouths, noses, fingertips and eyes. The cheeses are ready when they have been approved with regard to taste, smell, consistency, texture and appearance on a scale of one to nine. Every year 140,000 cheeses are produced, all of which adhere to the high standards placed upon Västerbottensost.