Let's unwrap a mystery together. What's inside the red foil cube at the cheese counter that's known as Ski Queen, or Gjetost? If you're Norwegian, your hand just shot into the air. If you're not, you may have been suspicious of this little rectangle for a while, and you'll raise a further eyebrow when the foil comes off: What's inside looks like a block of cream cheese that's just gone in for a spray tan.
Peanut butter in colour, and fudge-like in texture (though nowhere near as saccharine), Gjetost (pronounced YEH-toast) is a Norwegian staple made from condensed goat's-milk whey. (The name actually translates to "goat milk" though cow's milk or cream can also be added.) Cooked down, the whey becomes thick and caramelized (think about reducing condensed milk to make dulce de leche), producing addictive sweet and salty flavours that melt in your mouth.
Due to its sweet character and gentle tang, the cheese works well served shaved as a dessert option and paired with fruit (crisp apple slices make a great match). But don't leave it out of the day-to-day pantry. In Norway, it's a breakfast staple eaten with rye toast, and you can also slice it thinly and let it melt on your waffles or crumpets. Gjetost is a great melter (hence the fondue recipe below) and its sweet-and-salty combination is an excellent match for coffee or tea. It's typically carried as a protein rich, portable snack by sporty Scandinavians, especially when they go skiing.
Fair warning, the price for a 500 gram piece (the size I've found at Loblaws and Whole Foods) is close to $20, but it will last. The fondue uses about a quarter of the block, leaving plenty for breakfast, snacks and your coffee break.
Gjetost and Baileys Fondue
6 oz Ski Queen
3 tablespoons cream (more for thinning)
2 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Slice the Gjetost into thin strips or small cubes to make it easier to melt. Combine the cheese with the other ingredients in a small pot over medium-low heat, stirring with a spatula until it becomes liquid and smooth. Use a whisk to get out the final lumps. Thin with more cream or milk to desired consistency.
Transfer to a fondue dish and keep warm over a low heat.
Serve with fruit (apples and banana are perfect), ginger snaps or cubes of raisin bread.
Sue Riedl blogs about cheese and other edibles at cheeseandtoast.com.