Smoky flavors are readily associated with a barbecue. Smoke-flavored sauces and salt are often used when the grill stays cold. But smoke and cream cheese? Rygeost is a regional specialty on the Danish island of Fyn (German Fünen) and, according to Jørgen Hoff, the only Danish cheese that is not a copy of a foreign cheese, but a Danish original.
Jørgen Hoff has been producing cheese in the small village of Gundestrup since 2007. His range includes more than 20 varieties. Most of them are interpretations of well-known foreign cheeses. Fynbo, for example, is modeled on Gouda, and Dana Blue is based on the English Stilton. Jørgen Hoff’s bestseller, however, is Rygeost, a smoked cheese. All of Denmark loves this cheese. The Gundestrup dairy supplies supermarket chains throughout the country, as well as the Danish royal family and top restaurants. Jørgen Hoff’s success, I am convinced after our visit, lies in his passion for his profession. Full of enthusiasm and in an infectiously good mood, he takes us on a tour of the cheese factory. Every week, he and his six employees produce around 15,000 smoked cheeses. And the trend is rising.
Aroma from the cheese rondel
Rygeost is a white sour milk cheese. The milk for Jørgen Hoff’s cheeses is given by Jersey cows from the neighborhood. Their milk has a particularly high protein content and a high fat content. This makes this dairy cow a favorite breed among cheese makers. Jørgen Hoff himself developed the machine that adds the smoke flavor to the cheese, and the fuel is organic straw from his own cultivation. Straw, explains Jørgen, develops a particularly large amount of smoke. A cheese passes through the smoke clouds in the cheese rondel for just 20 seconds. But that’s enough for a subtle smoke aroma that also increases the cheese’s shelf life. The cheese bears distinctive stripes on one side after its short ride through the infernal machine. During the course of product development, Jørgen Hoff found that smoking the entire cheese wheel left too strong a smoky note. So a carrier mold was built to protect part of the cheese side from the smoke.
Smoked cheese from Gundestrup has a mildly smoky aroma and maintains the perfect balance between finely acidic cream cheese and a delicate smoky note. In Denmark, smoked cheese is eaten for breakfast. It goes well with rye bread, tomatoes, salt and pepper. At the end of the tour, we have the pleasure of tasting the cheese in the farm store. Jørgen spreads smoked cheese on a piece of rye crackers and places a blob of rosehip jam on top. He hands us this Nordic combination and says: this, this is sun over Gundestrup. He is right, it tastes fantastic.
On Fyn, the pleasure is by the wayside! If you travel by car, you can experience many local tastes in the small farm stores and manufactories. Funen is also a wine-growing area and wine tastings are offered by the winemakers in the summer. In the report Country outing in the heart of Denmark you can learn more about regional specialties and their producers. More information on Visit Fyn.
The research trip was supported by the Fyn Tourism Association