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This Cheese Can Only Be Made in a Small Swedish Village And Nobody Knows Why

Västerbottensost cheese is known as the “Emperor of Cheeses” in Sweden. people there love its complex taste and creamy texture so much  that they use it on everything. When they can get their hands on it that is, because authentic Västerbottensost is only produced at a small factory in the village of Burträsk. People have tried producing it somewhere else several times, but it just doesn’t turn out the same.

The secret to why Västerbottensost cheese can only be produced in Burträsk has been dubbed one of Sweden’s most intriguing mysteries. Over the years, people have tried expanding production of this famous cheese in various parts of the northern country, but to no avail. They tried making it in Falkenberg, a municipality in southern Sweden, in Bollnäs, a settlement in central Sweden, and even in the city of Umeå, close to Burträsk village. but the resulting cheese just didn’t taste like the original. The same recipe and production protocol were respected to the letter, but the Västerbottensost cheese made in Burträsk always tasted better.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Particularities of a region’s soil or climate have been known to influence the taste or general quality of certain foods or drinks, but in the case of Västerbottensost, we’re talking about a small village, or according to some, a very small dairy factory. Although no one knows exactly why Västerbottensost cannot be produced elsewhere, theories abound. Some believe that it’s due to a meteorite that struck the area long ago, creating a lake near Burträsk and enriching the soil with calcium, which now affects the milk and the cheese it’s turned into. Other believe that the unique flavor of Västerbottensost cheese is given by the spruce shelves that it’s left to mature on for 14 months, or by the unique flora in the dairy factory.

Despite using forensic DNA analysis techniques to decipher the link between Västerbottensost and the Burträsk dairy factory, cheese experts have been unable to offer an irrefutable explanation. When the local factory expanded, large holes between the old building and the new one were left uncovered so the air could flow freely, just in case the factory flora was indeed key to the cheese.

 

Västerbottensost  is a slow-maturing cheese, requiring at least 14 months on the shelves of the dairy factory in Burträsk. It’s complex taste and creamy texture make it very popular in Sweden, but because it’s always in short supply (around 4,000 tonnes of it are made per year), its price is about double that of other aged cheeses.