Fynsk rygeost is a smoked, white, soft cheese made from whole milk. The cheese is lightly smoked using moist oat straw or rye straw and nettles. In some instances the cheese is also sprinkled with caraway seeds. The smell is fresh, lightly sour and smoky. The taste is a bit sweet, mellow and creamy, with a light smoke flavor. To make the cheese, two liters of whole milk is heated to 42°C. Then 100 milliliters of buttermilk and 100 milliliters of double cream and two drops of rennet are added. The mixture is then left to thicken at room temperature for approximately 24 hours. It is then poured through a sieve lined with cotton or flax cloth, and left to drain for 36-48 hours until firm. The cheese is subsequently smoked for one minute in a warm smoke from oat or rye straw and fresh green nettles. Through archeological finds we know that a sour, soft cheese was produced already 5000 years ago. However it was not until about 900 AD when the Vikings brought back knowledge of cheese production to Denmark that further development in local cheesemaking was made. Exactly when someone came up with the idea of smoking the cheese is unknown, but as smoking fish was already practiced for better preservation, it is perhaps not that far-fetched to conclude that smoking cheese was practiced as well for that very same reason. By the 1800s and onwards it was quite common to produce and smoke a sour milk cheese, commonly known as fynsk rygeost in the island of Funen, Denmark, particularly in the northern area. Today, just a handful of dairies in Funen still produce ryegeost, which is sold commercially in grocery stores, farm shops and specialty shops. Today, many families still make their own versions of rygeost for personal use. It is usually eaten on rye bread with chives and radishes on top. It is also popular to mix rygeost with sour cream to prepare a dish called rygeost salad. However, with time, demand for fynsk rygeost has declined, and even for existing dairies, commercial production has become less viable.
Image: Karen Bencke & Hardy Jensen