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How did the USA go mad for Jarlsberg?

Why the Norwegian cheese has become America’s number one cheese import

How did the USA go mad for Jarlsberg?

Text by Anthea Gerrie

It might be because it looks like something dreamed up for a Tom and Jerry cartoon. It might be the melty nuttiness that makes it the ultimate ingredient for a posh grilled cheese sandwich. Either way, America’s hipsterati are digging it, leading to the country importing more Jarlsberg than any other cheese.

In New York, it’s on the menu everywhere from grilled cheese pop-up Mrs Dorsey’s Kitchen to Village success story Sweet Revenge, not to mention in countless Brooklyn food trucks; you’ll find it at legendary Portland food truck Viking Soul Food, or at Melt Mobile in Stamford, Connecticut.

It all seems quite fashion-forward for a cheese that can be traced back to the 1850s, when Norwegian dairy pioneer Anders Larsen Bakke developed a Swiss-style cheese (nutty, meltable and full of holes) in a college dubbed Jarlsberg Manor in the southern county (now Vestfold). Today’s secret recipe was created by Ola Martin Ystgaard, a professor at the Agricultural University of Norway, in 1956.

Now it’s been embraced by LA chef Eric Greenspan, who took America’s coveted Iron Chef title in 2011, and is a grilled cheese god (he twice won the top prize at the annual Grilled Cheese Invitational).

Jarlsberg stars at his latest venture, Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese, on Melrose Avenue, including a pairing with smoked salmon. “Jarlsberg passes my first test – it produces a great gooey melt,” he says.  “And its nutty taste pairs well with really strong flavours – I think it stands up to smoked meats and intense fruit compotes like my favourite apricot-caper concoction.

“I use that with Taleggio, which got me into the whole grilled cheese thing because of its gorgeous texture – and Jarlsberg, I’ve decided, is the Taleggio of the north.” Anders Larsen Bakke would be proud.



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