Gamalost, which literally translates as “old cheese”, is made from soured skim milk and is aged for about two weeks. It's brown with lighter coloring towards the center, semi-soft, grainy, and rindless. It contains 1% fat and up to 50% protein.
Gamalost has a complex and varied history. Once a staple of the Norweigan diet, it has at various times also been called skiør-ost’ (curd cheese), ‘suurost’ (sour cheese) and ‘ramost’ (pungent cheese). It was traditionally a seasonal cheese, made in the mountains during the summer.
Historical accounts suggest that there were two methods of Gamalost production; one in which milk was heated in a cauldron and stirred to break the curds, which then sunk to the bottom after removal from the heat source, and were then molded after whey was removed. In the second, floating curds were scooped out of the cauldron and molded, then put back into boiling whey and left for half an hour. In both cases, cheeses were left in the molds for a few days, then placed on shelves in a warm room. After some softening and mold growth, they were placed in a drier room on birch bark and turned every other day. Sometimes they were placed in wooden chests and/or wrapped in oat straw that had been soaked in gin and juniper berries. Starter cultures used for the recipe varied, and often included Penicillum varieties that imparted a green color to the center of the cheese.
Gamalost production gradually decreased, along with seasonal mountain cheesemaking, starting in the mid-19th century. Today, Vik Dairy in Sogn is the only remaining producer of Gamalost, and the cheese is sold under the Tine label. Modern production resembles the second method described in historical accounts; skim milk is heated to 63 degrees celsius, curds are separated from whey, then molded and set into vats of boiling whey for a couple of hours. Once unmolded, they're placed on steel shelves and sprayed with a mucor mucedo car. racemosus mold culture (a pure strain as opposed to the varied strains of the past). The mold imparts a thick, fuzzy surface to the cheese within 3 days, which is patted down by hand a few times before ripening finishes in 12-14 days.
Gamalost is difficult to find outside of Norway, as it's not made in sufficient quantity for export. Yet it remains a source of local pride in the Sogn region; each summer there's a Gamalost festival (Gamalostfestivalen) in Vik.
Gamalost is often eaten on dark break with sour cream, butter, cranberries, or syrup, or served alongside fresh fruit.