What is brown cheese?

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One of the weirdest foods we encountered in Norway was brunost, or brown cheese. It’s not a type of cheese I have seen anywhere else, but is common in Nordic countries (a clay pot with cheese burned to its base was found in Jutland, Denmark in 2016 suggesting it existed as long ago as 3000 years ago).  It is made by using low heat for several hours to cook whey (and milk, and cream) until it caramelizes and turns a deep golden brown colour.

I tried some, and it lacks the creaminess of normal cheese, yet is extremely rich. It was tasty, but had an extremely dense consistency, with a texture of fudge. It has been described as the peanut butter of cheese. We saw a number of different types in the grocery store, including geitost, made from goat’s milk whey, milk, and cream.  It is traditionally eaten thinly sliced. In Canada you can find brown cheese in the guise of Ski Queen brand (made by TINE, Norway).

Brown cheeses in the grocery store in Oslo.

Here’s a great article on brown cheese: Ode to Norwegian Brown Cheese



Norway Trip (i) : There (and back again) with IcelandAir

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travel / vacation

This year for our vacation we travelled to Norway, part of our trek through the nordic countries. The first part of this trip had us flying from Toronto to Oslo via Reykjavik with IcelandAir. We have flown with IcelandAir before, and the service is good. The flight itself is a bit longer than a direct flight, due to the brief layover at IcelandAir’s hub at Keflavik Airport. From the west coast of North America, the flights to Europe are actually shorter due to flying over Canada and Greenland. The planes have good legroom, and the only slight disadvantage for an international flight is the lack of food service (which isn’t so bad because of improved food service in most airports).

Boarding from the rear of the aircraft at Keflavik – a rare experience these days.

The real problem is Keflavik Airport. If you are staying in Iceland, this will be less of an issue, however connecting to a destination in Europe is made onerous by the airport. Why? For a number of reasons. Our flight landed in Reykjavik at 1am. Even at that time there were not enough airbridges for the aircraft, so our aircraft was parked by the terminal and we walked in via the tarmac. The terminal was packed with people though which isn’t that terrible, but if the airport is that crowded at 1am in the morning, then there are obviously issues. The core problem with the airport is the amount of transiting passengers, and the lack of space, i.e. the lack of washrooms, and the lack of seating.  On a positive note, in an average airport you wouldn’t expect anything open at 1am, but there were a number of food outlets, and even duty-free shops open. There is also free wi-fi, and the food at the airport is good, and not as expensive as one would expect. To board the plane we had to take a bus out to the plane.

Crowds awaiting outgoing flights.

The cool thing about arriving at 1am is that this time of day (early am, August 11), Iceland has as nautical twilight, and no actual “night”, which is kind-of cool. During nautical twilight, the geometric center of the Sun’s disk is between 6 and 12 degrees below the horizon. If you want to experience 21 hours of daylight, then you have to visit Iceland around June 20th, near the peak of daylight.

On the way home from Norway, our plane arrived in Iceland mid-afternoon. It was even worse. Our plane was again parked on the tarmac, and we took a bus into the terminal. The terminal was packed like a sardine can. Not surprising considering this July the airport handled 1.1 million passengers, up 22% from July 2016. The problem is that disembarking and embarking a plane on the tarmac means that a 90-minute layover is effectively reduced to 20 minutes, because of the bus transit times. I would have liked to spend some more time in looking around in the duty-free, as they have a good range of Icelandic-made products, however we had to rush through to make it to the gate, so we could “board” 40 minutes before the flight departed.

Approaching Keflavik Airport, with Reykjavik in the distance, and Kleifarvatn in the middle, the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

I realize these are obviously growing pains, however it does question whether we would transit through Keflavik again, and therefore whether or not I would fly IcelandicAir. The benefit of flying IcelandAir is the fact that you can do a layover in Reykjavik, and do some exploring of Iceland (see my previous posts on Iceland). Next on to Oslo…

P.S. A master plan for Keflavik Airport, “2015-2040” in 2015 forecasted 5.2 million passengers for 2017. The 2016 total was 6,821,358, and current trends are 35% up on 2016, putting the likely 2017 total to 9.2 million – the suggested capacity for 2040 was 9 million.

Making tomato puree

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This time of year is preserving time. Number one on my list this year, because I ignored it completely last year was tomato puree. Now sometimes when I’m cooking, I use tomato passata, which is suppose to be uncooked tomato puree, but whilst some brands can be good, others can be overly tomatoey, i.e. too concentrated. The same with some canned tomatoes. What I want is a lighter tomato puree, so I usually bottle my own. The process is actually super easy, as are the ingredients.

Ingredient No.1 is naturally the tomato. I use Roma tomatoes, and usually buy a bushel. I find that’s enough to make 20-22 pint sized jars of puree. I start by blanching the tomatoes in hot water for 1-2 minutes. This loosens the skins, and makes the tomato easier to puree. I then let them cool for a couple of minutes, quarter and peel them, and run them through the puree attachment on my Ankarsrum. I do this in batches of 20 odd tomatoes. Once my collector bowl is full of puree, I transfer it to a large pot on the stove, where I simmer the puree on low heat, for 1-2 hours to reduce its water content. At this stage add salt to taste.

At the end I am left with a bowl load of seeds, and skins. I generally run this through a sieve by hand to get the remaining liquid and tomato solids that may have been attached to the skin. Waste-not-want-not. I then prep the jars, generally running them through the dishwasher, then pre-heating them in a 200°F oven for 20 minutes. When the puree has reduced by 20%, it gets bottled. To each pint jar, I add one tablespoon of concentrated lemon juice (from a bottle). The bottled puree is then water-bath processed for 35-40 minutes. The end result is a sweet, light puree, ready for winter cooking!

Off to Norway…

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Posting will be on hiatus for a couple of weeks as we head off to Norway on vacation. We will be visiting Oslo, then taking the Norway in a nutshell tour from fjord Tours. This tour takes us by train to Bergen, where we have a airbnb place for five nights. This is followed by a night in Voss, a cruise on a fjord, and a night 820 metres above sea level, at Myrdal, staying at a mountain resort – Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell. More importantly for train buffs like me is riding the scenic Bergen Railway, and the Flåm Railway. I will be blogging this adventure when I get back home, although I might post progress on the trip on Instagram.

Vacationing in Copenhagen (vii) – the boat cruise

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One activity worth doing whilst in Copenhagen is one of the boat cruises. There are a few cruises, and they cruise around Copenhagen’s many canals. We took The Grand Tour. It’s the best way to see parts of the city that you wouldn’t see walking about. Here is the waterfront view of the Danish Architecture Centre.

The spectacular Copenhagen Opera House.

This classic building use to house Copenhagen’s famous NOMA restaurant (you can see the experimental food lab floating to the right of the building). NOMA will open in another location sometime in 2017.




Montreal markets – Marché Des Saveurs Du Québec

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food / food market / travel

One of my favourite stores in Jean Talon market is Marché Des Saveurs Du Québec. It has products from all over Quebec, and is a must stop if you are at the market. They have a great selection of Quebec cheese…

smoked fish and meats…

an excellent selection of maple syrup products in every imaginable form…

boutique yogourts, like those from Ferme Vallée Verte, situated in Saint-Jean-de-Matha…

and craft beers…