Västerbottensost — the Story Behind the Legendary Swedish Västerbotten Cheese

Visitors to Sweden are often surprised when they get to the cheese section at a supermarket. The selection of cheese is, quite literally, massive. And among the most popular cheeses of all is Västerbotten cheese (Västerbottensost). This hard cheese, slightly crumbly, with a pretty mature/strong flavor, is one of the Swedes’ most beloved cheeses. 

Read on to learn about the history of this epic Swedish cheese.

The Västerbotten Cheese Is Old

Technically speaking, when you buy Västerbotten cheese, it’s about 14 months old. At least, that’s the minimum for how long its been matured. 

However, Västerbottensost is also old in that it’s been produced since 1872.

A Secret Recipe…and a Bit of History 

As any other self-respecting cheese, Västerbottensost has a secret recipe that very, very few people know. The recipe was invented in 1872 by Ulrika Eleonora Lindström.

When Ulrika was 30 years old she inherited 500 riksdaler (500 crowns which with inflation would be worth more today). She used the money to train as a mejerska (female dairy worker). At school, she was taught how to make Västgötaost (Västgöta cheese) and in 1869 she brought the recipe with her to Gammelbyns mejeri (Gammelbyns diary). She started out as a dairy maid, but after three years she became a diary worker. 

One day when she was making Västgötaost something happened (rumor has it that a male dairy worker distracted her) and she was distracted and made a mistake while making the cheese. As a result, it was assumed the cheese would have to be discarded, but after trying it, it was deemed a success instead. 

Nobody knows how true this story is, but Ulrika Eleanora invented the Västerbottensosten in 1872.

What’s in a Name?

Västerbottensost is produced in Västerbotten (the literal translation being: Westbottom…) where it was originally invented. However, more precisely the recipe was first created in Burträsk, a place in Västerbotten, which is why it was originally called Burträskost.

Legend Has It…

Västerbottensost is so popular it’s led to legends springing up about it. One such legend suggests that the cheese is so tasty because a meteor fell into the fields where the cows that produce the milk for the cheese now roam. 

Well, when in doubt, add space into the mix for some extra effect… 

That said…no one has ever been able to make Västerbottensost with dairy from farms from other places. In fact, only 61 farms have been approved to produce the milk for Västerbottensost! 

The Largest Cheese in Sweden

The size of a Västerbottenost before it’s cut? 18 kg! It’s a massive cheese wheel.

It Takes a Lot of Milk to Make One Västerbottensost

10 liters of milk makes for one kilogram of cheese. That said, the whey that’s a byproduct of making the cheese can be used for other products. 

You Can Freeze It

Västerbottensost can be frozen for up to four months! So if you buy too much, no stress!

It’s Lactose Free

As the cheese matures, the lactose disappears naturally. The end product is lactose free. 

It’s Yummy

Of course it is! That’s why it’s so famous. Doh. And if you want to discover the distinct flavor profile of Västerbottenost, you can do so—we ship it fresh every week!