Literally translated, it means "old cheese." Through the years, I've come to understand it means "stinky," "indelible," and other such adjectives as described my particular Norwegian family. My mom claims that the one time she bought it for my dad (a Norwegian immigrant), it stunk so badly that she couldn't leave it in the trash--she had to bury it in the back yard.
Given my enjoyment of many stinky cheeses, I am thinking I may have missed out by not trying this the times we visited family in Norway.
Anyone have any experience with Gammelost? And if so, your thoughts?
It was around 1954 (I was 7 or 8) and we were driving home after spending Christmas at the home of my very Norwegian grandparents. As we were getting in the car, Grandfather proudly pressed a package into my mother's hands and said with a smile, "Gammelost!". We hadn't traveled more than 10 minutes before my non-Norska father wanted to know what the hell that terrible smell was. This was in the days before Saran Wrap or Zip-Locks (I really don't think either would have made any difference) and this "treasure" was wrapped only in wax paper and tin-foil. Pop stopped the car and placed the package in the trunk. Before we reached the Outerbridge (this was Staten Island), the smell was back.....in spades! Another stop on the Jersey side of the bridge and the package was jettisoned. An hour and a half later we were home, but my father claimed the smell lingered in that Buick for months. That was my only encounter with Gammelost and, to this day, I avoid any and all stinky and/or moldy cheeses. I do enjoy Nokkelost though.....if I could only locate some Gristle (sp?) bread. Though I never actually saw what was in the "package", the attached photo is how I still imagine it.
I was at a party last weekend and met a very nice lady visiting from Norway. She told me about "Old Cheese" that she eats every day for breakfast because of its health benefits. When I asked her if I could try some she told me that it is so stinky nobody likes it. I LOVE smelly cheese and finally convinced her to let me try it. I tried it and yes, its taste is very strong indeed, but I quite liked it. By the time I had my third cheese and cracker I was hooked.
Does anyone know where I can purchase Gammelost in the San Francisco Bay Area? I would love to have some more of that stinky goodness. Yum!!
I just had a lovely gamalost snack. I eat it at least once every week, and have done so for many years, though I am not at all an old man. The smell isn't really that strong. Some ammonia, some hard-to-describe dry pungency, but there are French, English and Italian cheeses that smell a lot more offensive (and we have other foods here in Norway that smells a lot stronger, for instance rakfisk and the smellier versions of lutefisk). The cheese is very lean (only 1 percent fat) and dry and crumbly, so it is best eaten with a good layer of butter. That also increases its health benefits, the high amount of the blood pressure lowering chemical chitosan is more efficiently taken up when taken with fat. And it tastes a lot better. There is no doubt that gamalost is an aquired taste, but that goes for all complex and interesting foods, doesn't it?