Odds are that if someone’s talking to you about Swedish cheeses, they’ve confused Sweden with Switzerland. Unless, of course, they’re talking about Västerbottensost (Västerbotten cheese).
Västerbottensost is a hard cow’s milk cheese, aged for 12-14 months on spruce boards. The exact recipe remains a secret known only by a privileged few. Pale yellow in color, it tastes something like Parmigiano Reggiano, although it is much sweeter. The Swedes simply can’t get enough of it.
The national staple of Västerbottensost has its past, present, and future in the small northern locality of Burträsk in Västerbotten County. It’s the only place anywhere in the world that the cheese is made. The story goes that in 1872, dairy maid Ulrika Eleonora Lindström was distracted from her duties by a “romantic interlude.” When she returned from her impromptu romp, the curds had turned in such a way that they enabled the creation of an entirely new form of cheese. Her creation quickly became a sensation across the land, compelling evidence for the value of a well-timed romantic interlude.
Considered “the king of cheese,” demand for Västerbottensost has outstripped supply for decades. The national devotion of the Swedes to their ost manifests itself most obviously in the Västerbottensost Visitors Center, erected in 2012. Here, pilgrims can marvel at cheese exhibits, take savory guided tours of the production facilities, and fill themselves with goodies at the cafe. When pairing with the bold flavors of salted crayfish and pickled herring, simply no other cheese will do.